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BY . 





The following pages present a temperate, and I 
hope a satisfactory, examination of the temporal 
good or Qvil produced by Natural Religion. Tlie 
topic is of unspeakable importance, and has by no 
means met with the attention which it deserves. 
It has indeed scarcely ever been separately consi- 
dered, and those who have controverted the truth 
of religion have suffered themselves with but little 
opposition to be decried as inflicting .the deepest 
injury upon humanity— as corrupting the most 
effectual source both of rectitude and of consolatioii 
— and as robbing mankind of doctrines, which, sup- 
posing they were Iklse, ou^t nevertheless to have 
been invented and inculcated. Such has been 
the current opinion on the subject: and it need not 
be remariced how strpng must have been ^ in- 
clination of an audience so prepossessed, to support 
that which they regarded as the firmest tie and 
protection of society. 



It is therefore essentially requisite, before the 
question as to the truth of religion can be brought 
to a fair and unbiassed decision, to estimate cor- 
rectly the advantages or disadvantages which re- 
sult from its adoption. If the estimate of these 
advantages drawn up by its advocates be really 
well-founded, \ve may safely pronounce that no 
anti-religious writer could possibly make a convert, 
even though he were armed with demonstration as 
rigorous as that of Euclid. 

I^bould the following reasonings be deemed con- 
clusive, a clear idea may be formed of the temporal 
gain or loss accruing from the agency of Natural 
Religion. Whether the doctrines which this term 
involves be true or false, is a point on which I do not 
intend to touch : nor is the question of any import, 
so far as regards the present discussion. Though 
these doctrines were false, yet many religionists 
allege that it-would be salutary to deceive mankind 
into a belief of their truth: And conversely, others 
might . with equal right maintain, that although 
they were true, it might perhaps still be pernicious, 
so far as regards the present life, to receive them as 
Under the term Natural Religion, I include all 
religious belief not specially determined and settled 
by some revelation (or reputed revelation) from the 
Being to whom the belief relates. The good or 

bad temporal tendency of any piarticular alleged re- 
velation, can of course only be ascertained by an in- 
spection of the books- in which it is contained, and 
must therefore form a separate enquiry. To any 
such enquiry however, the present discussion is an 
essential preliminary. For if it be discovered that 
Religion, unassisted by revelation, is the foe and 
not the benefactor of mankind^ we can then ascertain 
whether the good effects engrafted upon her by 
any alleged revelation, are sufficient to neutralise 
the bitterness of her natural fruits. Nor is it pos- 
sible to measure the benefit or injury derived from 
revealed Religion, without first determining the 
effects of Religion herself without any revelation. 

Divines have on many occasions admitted and 
enlarged upon the defects and bad tendency of 
Natural Religion. Hence, they infer, the necessity 
of a revelation. Whoever contends that a revela- 
tion was a present highly necessary, and a most 
signal instance of the benevolence of God; must 
also contend that the pre-existing religion was, to 
say the least, productive of a very slender portion 
of good. And if our present enquiry should demon- 
strate that Natural Religion has produced a large 
balance of temporal evil above temporal good, this 
will evince still more forcibly the necessity of a 
revelation such as to purge and counteract its bad 



To obviate ^1 misconceptions, I wish to declare 
beforehand, that whenever the general term religion 
is used in the following treatise I mean it to denote 
Tnere Natural Religion, apart from Revelation. If 
I do not constantly annex the qualifying epithet 
natural, it is from a wish to avoid needless repetition 
of that which may be indicated once for all in the 
beginning. In the same manner I wish it to be un- 
derstood, that whenever the terms, sacerdotal class, 
or any synonymous phrases, are employed, it is 
only the ministers of Natural Religion who arfe 
designated. . 



Prelimiaary Statements and I>efinitions. 

The €xpectatioBS of posthumous Pleasure and Pain, which Natural < 
Religion holds out, considered simply and in l^ems^lres. 

The san»e expectations eoBsidered as conditional, and as exercis- 
ing influence upon human conduct. 

Section I. — Natural Religion provides directly no rule of guid- 
ance whatever. 

Section H. — It indirectly suggests, and applies its inducements 
to the observance of, a rule of action very pernicious to Uie 
temporal interests of mankind. 

Farther considerations on the temporal usefulness of that rule of 
action which the inducements of Natural Religion enforce. 

Of the efficiency of the inducements held out by Natural Religion. 
How far superhuman inducements can be regarded as likely to 
prove influential where no human inducements would be in- 

Efficiency of the superhuman inducements to produce temporal 
evil: Their inefficiency to produce temporal good. 

Analysis of the source from whence the real efficiency of superhu- 
man inducements is almost wholly derived. 

Proof the complete inefficiency of super-human inducements, when 
at variance with, or unassisted by, public opinion. 

Recapitulation of the contents of the first Part. 



Catalogue of the various modes in which Natural Religion pro- 
duces temporal mischief. 

Of the niischiefs^ which it occasions to the believer individually. 

Mischief I. Inflicting unprofitable suffering. 

II. Imposing useless privations. 

III. Impressing undefined terrors. 

IV. Taxing pleasure, by the infusion of preliminary scru- 
ples and subsequent remorse. 

Of the mischiefs which natural Religioa occasions, not only to the 

believer himself^ but also to others through his means. 
Mischief I. — Creating factitious antipathies. 

II. — Perverting the popular opinion — Corrupting moral 

sentiment— ^Sanctifying antipathies — Producing aversion to im- 

- III. — Disqualifying the intellectual faculties for purposes 

useful in this life. 

IV. — Suborning unwarranted belief. 

r V. — Depraving the temper. 

- VI. — Creating a particular class of persons incurably op- 

posed to the interests of humanity. 



Preliminary statements and definition. 

On the truth of religion much has been urged; on 
its usefulness and beneficial tendency, compara- 
tively little — little, at least, which can be termed ar- 
gumentative or convincing. But assumption is 
shorter than proof, and the advocates of religion, 
though scarcely deigning to bestow any inquiry or 
analysis upon the subject, have not failed to ascribe 
to it results of supreme excellence and happiness. 
It has been affitnied to be the leading bond of union 
between the different members of society — to be the 
most powerful curb on the immoral and unsocial pas- 
sions of individuals — to form the consolation and 
support of misfortunes and declining life — in short it 
has been described as the most efficient pr«p both of 
iriward happiness and of virtuous practice in this 
world. Whether these sublime pretensions are well- 
founded or not, the following inquiry is destined to 

Thfe Warmest partisan of natural religion cannot 

deny, that by the influence of it (occasionally at 
least)^bad effects have been produced ; nor can any 
one on the other hand venture to deny, that it has on 
other occasions brought about good effects. The 
question therefore is, throughout, only as to the 
comparative magnitude, number, land proportion of 

One course has indeed been adopted, by means 
of which religion has been, in appearance, extricated 
from all imputation, of having ever given birth to ill 
effects in any shape. So far as the results occa- 
sioned by it have been considered as good, the pro- 
ducing cause has been termed religion: - So far as 
these results have been regarded as bad, this name 
has been discarded and the w^ord superstition has 
been substituted. Or these injurious effects have 
avovsredly been throwrn aside under the pretence, that 
they are abuses of religion; that the abuse of a thing 
cannot be urged against its use, since the most bene- 
ficent preparations may be erroneously or criminally 
applied. By these false methods of reasoning the 
subject has been inconceivably overclouded, and it 
is therefore essentially necessary to expose and 
guard against such fallacies in the outset. From 
the former of these two sources all deception will be 
obviated by an accurate definition of the term reli- 
gion; by strictly confining it to one meaning, and in- 
variably introducing it whenever that meaning is 
implied. Against the latter principle, by which 
what are called the abuses of a thing are discarded 
from the estimate of its real importance and value, 
we declare open war. By the use of a thing, is 
meant the good which it produces ; by the abuse, 
the evil which it occasions. To pronounce upon the 
merits of the thing under discussion, previously 
erasing from the reckoning all the evil which it oc- 
casions, is most preposterous and unwarrantable. 
Were this mode of summing up receipts and eluding 

all deduction of outgoings, admissible, every institu- 
tion, which had ever produced any good effects at 
all, must be applauded as meritorious and useful, 
although its pernicious effects, which had been 
thrust out of the account, might form a decided and 
overwhelming balance on the other side. 

By the term religion is meant the belief in the ex- 
istence of an almighty Being, by whom pains and 
pleasures will be dispensed to mankind, during an 
infinite and future state of existence. And religion 
is called natural, when there exists no written and 
acknowledged declaration, from which an acquaint- 
ance with the will and attributes of this almighty 
Being may be gathered. 

My object is therefore to ascertain, whether the 
belief of posthumous pains and pleasures, then to be 
administered by an omnipotent Being, is useful to 
mankind — that is, productive of happiness or misery 
in the present life. 

I say, in the present life, for the distinction is 
exceedingly important to notice. Compared with 
an interminable futurity, the present life taken in its 
almost duration, is but as a point, less than a drop of 
water to the ocean. Although, therefore, it should 
be demt)nstrated, that religion, considered with re- 
ference to the present life, is not beneficial but per- 
nicious — not augmentative but destructive of hu- 
man happiness — there might still remain ample mo- 
tive to the observance of its precepts, in the mind of 
a true believer. 


The Expectations of posthumous Pain and Pleasure, 
which Natural Religion holds out, considered simply 
and in themselves. 

The pains and pleasures, which are believed to await 
us in a posthumous existence, may be anticipated 
either as conditional, and dependent upon the pre- 
sent behaviour of the believer, or as unconditional 
dispensations, which no conduct on his part can 
either amend or aggravate. Though perhaps it is 
impossible to produce any case in which the belief 
has actually assumed this latter shape, yet it will be 
expedient to survey it in this niost general and inde- 
terminate form, before we introduce the particular 
circumstances which have usually accompanied the 
reception of it. A few considerations will suffice to 
ascertain, whether expectations of posthumous pains 
and pleasures, considered in themselves and without 
any reference to the direction which they may give 
to human conduct, are of a nature to occasion hap- 
piness or misery to the believer. 

Nothing can be more undeniable, than that a post- 
humous existence, if sincerely anticipated, is most 
likely to appear replete with impending pain and 
misery. The demonstration is brief and decisive. 

A posthumpus state of existence is necessarily 
unknown and impervious to human vision. We 
cannot see the ground which is before us ; We pos- 
sess not the slightest means of knowing whether it 
resembles that which we have already trodden . The 

scene before us is wrapped in impenetrable darkness?. 
In this state of obscurity and ignorance, the imagi- 
nation usurps the privilege of filling up the void, and 
what are the scenes which she pourtrays? They 
are similar to those with which the mind is overrun 
during a state of earthly darkness — the product of 
unmixed timidity and depression. Fear is the never- 
failing companion and offspring of ignorance, and 
the circumstances of human life infallibly give birth 
to such a communion. For the painful sensations 
are the most obtrusive and constant assailants which 
lie in ambush round our path. The first years of 
our life are spent in suffering under their sting, be- 
fore we acquire the means of warding them off. The 
sole acquisition applicable to this purpose is know- 
ledge — knowledge of the precise manner and oc- 
casion in which we are threatened, and of the anti- 
dote which may obviate it. Still however the pain- 
ful sensations are continually on the watch to take 
advajitage of every unguarded moment; nor is there 
a single hour of our life in which the lessons of expe- 
rience are not indispensibly necessary for our protec- 
tion against them. 

Since then it is only to knowledge that we owe 
our respite from perpetual suffering; wherever our 
knowledge fails us and we are reduced to a state of 
unprotected helplessness, all our sense of security^ 
all anticipations of future ease, must vanish along 
with it. Ignorance must generate incessant alarm 
and uneasiness. The regular oeconomy of the uni- 
verse, by which nature is subjected to general laws, 
and the past becomes the interpreter of the future, 
is often adduced as a reason for extolling the benefi- 
cence of .the Deity ; and a reliance on the stability of 
events, as well as in the efficacy of the provision we 
have made against the future, is justly regarded as the. 
most indispensible ingredient in human happiness. 
Had we no longer any confident expectation that 


to-morrow would resemble yesterday — were we al- 
together without any rule for predicting what would 
occur to us after this night, how shocking would be 
our alarm and depression? The unknown future, 
which was about to succeed, would be pregnant to 
our affrighted imaginations, with calamity from 
which we knew not how to shelter ourselves. In- 
fants are timorous to a proverb, and perhaps there 
is scarcely any man, possessed of vision, whom 
darkness does not impress with some degree of ap- 
prehension and uneasiness. Yet if a man fancies 
himself unsheltered, when only the visible prognos- 
tics of impending evil are effaced, while all his other 
means of foresight and defence remain inviolate, how 
much keener will be the sense of his unprotected 
condition, when all means of predicting or avert- 
ing future cqilamity are removed beyond his reach ? 
If, in the one case, his alarmed fancy peoples the 
darkness with unreal enemies, and that too in defi- 
ance of the opposing assurances of reason, what an 
array of sufiering will it conjure up in the other, 
where the ignorance and helplessness, upon which 
the alarm is founded, is so infinitely magnified, and 
where reason cannot oppose the smallest tittle of 

I have thus endeavoured to show that from the unin- 
termitting peril to which human life is exposed, and 
the perpetual necessity of knowledge to protect our- 
selves against it, mankind must infallibly conceive an 
unknown future as fraught with misery and torment. 
But this is not the only reason which may be assigned 
for such a tendency. Pain is a far stronger, *more 
pungent, and more distinct sensation than pleasure; 
it is more various in its shapes, more definite and 
impressive upon the memory, and lays hold of the 
imagination with greater mastery and permanence. 
Pain, therefore, is far more likely to obtrude itself 
upon the conceptions, where there exists no posi- 

tive evidence to circumscribe their range, than plea- 
sure. Throughout the catalogue of human suspi- 
cions, there exists not a case in which our ignorance 
is so profound as about the manner of a posthumous 
existence; and since no reason can be given for 
preferring ohe mode of conceiving it to another, the 
strongest sensations of the past will be perfectly sure 
to break in, and to appropriate the empty canvass. 
Pain will dictate our anticipation, and a posthumous 
life will be apprehended as replete with the most 
terrible concomitants which such a counsellor can 

Besides, pain alone, and want or uneasiness, 
which is a species of pain, are the standing provisi- 
ons of nature. Even the mode of appeasing those 
wants, is the discovery of human skill ; what is cal- 
led pleasure is a secondary formation, something 
superadded to the satisfaction of our wants by a far- 
ther reach of artifice; and only enjoyable when that 
satisfaction is perfect for the present, as well as 
prompt and certain for the future. Want and pain, 
therefore, are natural; satisfaction and pleasure, 
artificial and invented : and the former will on this 
ground also be more likely to present itself as the 
characteristic of an unknown state, than the latter. 

The preceding arguments seem to evince most 
satisfactorily, that a posthumous existence, if really 
anticipated, is far more likely to be conceived as a 
state of suffering, than of enjoyment. Such antici- 
pation, therefore, considered in itself, and without 
any reference to the direction which it gives to human 
conduct, will assuredly occasion more misery than 
happiness to those who entertain it. 

Though believers in a posthumous existence sel- 
dom in fact anticipate its joys or torments as uncon- 
ditionally ^.waiting them, and altogether independ- 
ent of their present conduct, yet it is important to 
examine the effects and tendency of the belief, when 


thuB entertained. We frequently hear the hope of 
immortality magnified as one of the loftiest privi- 
leges and blessings of human nature, without which 
plan would be left in a state of mournful and com- 
fortless destitution. To all these vague declamations, 
by which it is attempted to interest the partiality of 
mankind in favour of the belief in question, the fore- 
going arguments furnish a reply; they demonstrate 
that such anticipations, so far from conferring hap- 
piness on mankind, are certain to fasten in prefer- 
ence upon prospects of torments, and to occasion a 
large overplus of apprehension and uneasiness — at 
least until some revelation intervenes to settle and 
define them, and to terminate that ignorance which 
casts so terrific a character over the expected 
scenes. . 

He who imagines himself completely mortal, suf- 
fers no apprehension or misery, in this life, from the 
prospect of death, except that which the pains at- 
tending it, and the loss of present enjoyments, una- 
voidably hold out. A posthumous existence, if an- 
ticipated as blissful, would doubtless grfeatly allevi- 
ate the disquietude which the prospect of death oc- 
casions. It cannot b6 denied that such a persua- 
sion would prove the source of genuine happiness to 
the believer. But the fact is, thai a posthumous 
existence is not, by the majority of believers, anti- 
cipated as thus blissful, but as replete with terrors. 
The principles of human nature, to which reference 
has been made in the foregoing arguments, completely 
warrant this conclusion, supposing no revelation at 
hand to instil and guarantee more consoling hopes. It 
is obvious therefore, that natural religion, alone and 
tmassisted, will to the majority of its believers mate- 
rially aggravate the disquietude occasioned by the 
prospect of death. Instead of soothing apprehensions 
which cannot be wholly dispelled^ it would superadd 
fresh grounds of uneasiness, wrapped up in an un- 

certainty which only renders them more painful and 

Having thus ascertained, that posthumous antici- 
pations, considered in themselves and in their capa- 
city of feelings, occasion more unhappiness than be- 
nefit to the believer, I shall now examine them 
under that point of view in which they are com- 
monly regarded as most beneficial and valuable. 


The Expectations of posthumous Pain and Pleasure, 
which natural Religion holds out, considered as con- 
ditionaly and as exercising influence upon human Con- 

It is in this mode that such expectations are com- 
monly regarded as most beneficial to mankind. The 
anticipation of posthumous pleasure and pain, con- 
ditional upon the actions of the believer, is affirmed 
to imprint upon individual conduct a bias favour- 
able to the public happiness. I shall now proceed 
to investigate the validity of this plea, which has 
hitherto been seldom challenged. 

If natural religion contributes to^human happiness, 
by means of the influence which it exercises on the 
conduct of men, su ch a resujt can be brought about only 
in one of these ways ; Either it must provide a directive 
rule, communicating the knawledge of the right path 
— or it must furnish a sanction or inducement for the 
observance of some directive rule, supposed to be 
known from other sources. Unless it thus either 


admonishes oc impels, it cannot possibly affect in 
any way the course of human nature. 


It is obvious at first sight, that natural religion com- 
municates to mankind no rule of guidance. This is 
the leading defect which revelation is stated to 
supply, by providing an authentic enumeration of 
those acts to which future pains and pleasures are 
annexed. Independent of revelation, it cannot be 
pretended that there exists any standard, to which 
the believer in a posthumous existence, can apply for 
relief and admonition. The whole prospect is wrapt 
in impenetrable gloom, nor is there a streak of light 
to distinguish the one true path of future happiness 
from the infinite possibilities of error with which it 
is surrounded. 

Nor is the absence of any authoritative collection 
of rules, by which the believer might adjust his 
steps in all circumstances however difficult, the 
only defect to be remarked. Experience imparts no 
information upon the subject. That watchful scout, 
who on all other occasions spies out the snares and 
terrors, of the march, and points out the path of 
comparative safety, here altogether deserts us. We 
search in vain for any witness who may en- 
lighten this deplorable ignorance. The distribution 
of these pains and pleasures is completely unseen, 
nor does either the gainer or loser ever return to. 
testify the mode of dispensing them. We cannot 
therefore pretend even to conjecture whether there 
is any general rule observed in awarding them; or 
if there be a rule> what are its dictates. It is im-^ 
possible to divine what behaviour is visited with se- 
merity, what conduct leads to pleasurable results, 
during a sik^te^ in which there is not a gtimmering 
of light to guide us^ 


The natural religionist th^r^fiore is not only dfesti^ 
tute of any previous official warhing, by a compli*- 
ance with which he may ensure safety or fatour: 
He has not even the means of consulting those de^ 
tusionfe according to which the pleasures and painfe 
are actually awarded to actions already committed. 
Not only is there no statute law extant, distinguish- 
ing, with that strict precision Which should charac*- 
terise the legislator as he ought to be, the path Off 
happiness from that of misery : even the imperfect 
Jight of common law is here extinguished— even that 
record of decisions is forbidden, from whence we 
might at least borrow some shadowy and occasional 
surmises^ and learn to steer clear of the more excru- 
ciating lots of pain. The darkness is desperate and 
unfathomable ; and as truth and rectitude can be but 
a single track amidst an infinity of divergent errors, 
the chances in fkvour of a wrong line of conduct are 
perfectly incalculable. Yet a false step, if oncC 
committed, is altogether without hope or remedy. 
For when the posthumous sufferings are inflictfed, 
the hour of application and profit is irrevocably past, 
and the sufferer enjoys not even the melancholy 
CcnsolatiCtt which he might derive from the hope Of 
preventing any ftiture repetition of the .<iame torture. 

It seCms, therefore, almost unaccountable, that 
natural religion, how rich soever its promises, how 
terrible soever its threats, should exercise the least 
influence upon human conduct, since the conditions of 
its awards are altogether veiled from our sight. Why 
does the prospect of other pains affect our conduct ? 
Because experience teaches us the actions to which 
they are specially attached. Until we acquire thife 
knowledge, our behaviour cannot possibly be ac- 
tuated by the anticipations which they create. How 
theii can natural religion, shrouded as it is in such 
matchless obscurity, prove an exception to these 
inlkllible principles, and impel mankind withoiit 


specifying a single benefit derivable from one course 
of action rather than another? 

Since however it unquestionably does exercise 
some influence upon human conduct, this must be 
effected by providing inducements for some extrane- 
ous directive rule. I shall proceed to examine 
the nature of the precepts which it thus adopts and 
enforces, since there are none peculiarly suggested by 


In inquiring what extraneous rules of conduct are 
likely to promise either posthumous pleasure, or 
security from posthumous pain, we are unable to 
perceive, at first, how the believer should be led to 
any preference or conclusion upon the subject. So 
completely are we destitute of evidence, that it 
seems presumptuous to select any one mode of con- 
duct, or, to exclude any other. Experience alone 
can announce to us what behaviour is attended with 
enjoyment or discpmfort during this life; It is this 
guide alone who informs us that the taste of fruit 
will procure pleasure, or that contact with the fire 
will occasion pain, and if the trial had never been 
made, we should to this day have remained ignorant 
even of these trite and familiar facts. We could not 
have affirmed or denied any thing about them. Sup- 
pose a species of fruit perfectly new to be discovered ; 
If any one, before, either he himself, or some one else 
has tasted it, confidently pronounces that it is sweet 
and well -flavoured, an assertion so premature and un- 
certified could be treated only with contempt. We 
should term it folly and presumption thus to prophecy 


the pleasure or pain consequent in this life upon any 
particular conduct, prior to any experimental test. 
Whence comes it then, that the same certificate, 
which is allowed to be our only safeguard here 
against the dreams 8^nd chimeras of fancy, should be 
dismissed as superfluous and unnecessary in our an- 
ticipations of posthumous pain and pleasure ? If a man 
ignorant of medicine is unable to point out a course 
of life which shall, if pursued in England, preserve 
him from liability to the yellow fever when he goes 
to Jamaica, how much more boldness is re- 
quired to prescribe a preparatory course against 
consequences still farther removed from the possibi- 
lity of conjecture ? 

Rash, however, as such anticipations may seem to 
be, they have almost universally obtained recep- 
tion, under some form or other. And it is highly 
important to trace the leading assumptions which 
have governed the prophesies of men on the sub- 
ject of posthumous pain and pleasure — to detect 
those universal principles which never fail to stand 
out amidst an infinite variety of subordinate ac- 

Natural religion merely implants in a man the ex- 
pectation of a posthumous existence, involving awards 
pf enjoyment and suffering apportioned by an invi- 
sible Being. This we suppose it to assure and cer- 
tify ; beyond this, alHs dark and undiscovered. But 
on a subject so dim and yet so terrible, the obtrusive 
conjectures of fancy will not be silenced, and she 
will proceed to particularise and interpolate without 
delay. The character of the invisible Being in whose 
hands these fearful dispensations are lodged, will 
- present the most plausible theme for her specula- 
tions. If his temper, and the actions with which 
he is pleased or displeased, can be once discovered, 
an apparent clue to the secret sentences of futurity 
will be obtained. He will gratify those whose con- 


duct he likes; injure those whose behaviour is dis- 
agreeable to him. But what modes of conduct will 
he be supposed to approve or disapprove ? 

Before we proceed to unfold the principles which 
govern our suppositions regarding his temper, it m^y 
be important to point out, in a few words> the in*- 
sufficient basis upon which all anticipations of future 
enjoyment or suffering are built, independent of reve^ 
lation. The pains and pleasures of a posthumous life 
are under the dispensation of the invisible Being. 
But so also are the pains and pleasures of this life. 
You do not found any expectations regarding the 
latter upon any assumed disposition of their invisible 
Dispenser. You do not pacify your ignorance of 
those causes which may create a tendency to the 
yellow fever, by conjecturing that certain actions 
are displeasing to his feelings. Predictions founded, 
upon such wretched surmise would indicate the 
meanest imbecility. Why then should such evidence 
be considered as sanctioning anticipations of posthu- 
mous awards, when the commonest experience will 
not allow it to be employed to interpret the dispen* 
sations of the very same Being in the present life? Ill 
estimating the chances of life and death, of health and 
disease;^ no insuret ever inquires whether the actions of 
the applicant have been agreeable or disagreeable to 
the Deity. And the reasoning, upon which the trial 
by ordeal rests, is regarded with unqualified con- 
tempt, implying as it does, that thi^ Being approver 
or detests modes of action, and that he will manifest 
these feelings by di^^pensations in this life, of favour 
or severity. Yet this is merely a consistent applica- 
tion of the very same shift, for superseding the 
necessity of experience> on which the posthumous 
prophecies of natural religion are founded. 

In this life, however, it may be urged, there are 
laws of nature which the Deity cannot or will not 
interrupt. But why should there not also be post- 

' .#' . *^r iCJk. .^Ji^t^.. ■ iMm^ 


humous laws of nature, discoveraHe only by exp^ 
rience of them, and inviolable to the same extent ? 
The presumption unquestionably is, that there are 
such posthumous laws, and that we ^an no moore 
predict, from a reference to the attributes of the 
Deity, the modes of acquiring pleasure and ftvoidin^ 
pain in a posthumous life, tham we can in this. 

Amidst the dimness and distance of futurity, how- 
ever, reason is altogether struck blind, and we do jiot 
scruple ta indulge in these baseless anticipations. 
The assumed character of the invisible Dispenser k» 
the only ground on which fency can constniict her 
scale of posthumous promotion and disgrace. And 
tinus the rule of action, to which natural religion will 
affix her inducements of future vengeance and remu- 
neratioD, will be framed entirely upon the coneep^ 
lions entertained regarding* his character. 

We liins fcid ourselves somewhat nearer to the efe- 
ject of the present enquiry, whether natural religioB 
conduces to the happiness or misery of mankind du- 
ring the present life ; It appears that natural religion 
does not itself originate any rule of action^ whatever, 
and that the rule which it is supposed to seeoad and 
enforce depends only, upon conceptions of the tem- 
per of the Deity. If he is conceived to be perfectly 
benefic^it-*Thaving no personal affectioaa of his own, 
or none but such as are coincident with the happji- 
ness of mankind — patronising those actions ahme 
which are useful, and exactly in the degree in which 
they are useful— detesting in a similar manner and 
proportion those which are hurtful— ^then the aetiooa 
agreeable to him ,will be beneficial to mankind, and 
inducements to the performance of them will pro- 
mote the happiness of mankind. If, on t^e other 
hsoHl, he is depicted as unbeneficentt — as having per*- 
sonal affections seldom coincident with human hap^ 
piness, frequently injurious to it, and almost always 
fidvolous and exactive — favouring actions which- aare 

16 ' 

not useful at all, or not in the degree in which they 
are useful — disapproving with the same caprice ^nd 
without any reference to utility — then the course of 
action by which his favour is to be sought, will be 
more or less injurious to mankind, and inducements 
to pursue it will in the present life tend to the pro- 
duction of unhappiness. 

From this alternative there can be no escape. Ac- 
cording to the temper of the Being whom we seek 
to please, will be the mode of conduct proper for 
conciliating his favour. To serve the devil is uni- 
versally considered as implying the most abhorrent 
and detestable behaviour. 

If we consult the language in which mankind 
speak of the Deity, we shall be led to imagine that 
he is in their conception a being of perfect and unsul- 
lied beneficence, uniting in himself all that is glori- 
ous and all that is amiable. Such is the tendency 
and amount of the words which they employ. 
Strange, however, as the inconsistency may appear, 
it will not be diflBcult to demonstrate, that mere na- 
tural religion invariably leads its votaries to ascribe 
to their Deity a character of caprice and tyranny, 
while-they apply to him, at the same moment, all 
those epithets of eulogy and reverence which their 
language comprises. This discrepancy between the 
actual and the pretended conception is an infallible 
result of the circumstances, and agreeable to the 
principles of human nature. 

1. What are the fundamental data, as communi- 
cated by natural religion, respecting the Deity, from 
which his temper and inclinations are to be inferred I 
A power to which we can assign no limits — an agency 
which we are unable to comprehend or frustrate — 
«uch are the original attributes from which the dispo- 
sition of the possessor is to be gathered. 

Now the feeling which excessive power occasions 
in those who dwell under its sway, is extreme and 



unmixed fear. This is its appropriate and never 
failing effect, and he who could preserve an un- 
disturbed aspect in the face of a power against 
which he knew of no protection, and which might 
destroy him in an instant, would justly be i extolled 
»s a man of heroic firmness. But what is the tem- 
per of mind which fear presupposes in the object 
which excites it ? A disposition to do harm. Now a 
disposition to do harm, conjoined to the power of ef- 
fecting it at pleasure, constitutes the very essence of 
tyranny. Examine the fictitious narratives respect- 
ing men of extraordinary strength; You will find a 
•Giant or a Cyclops uniformly pourtrayed as cruel in 
the extreme, and delighted with the scent of human 
blood. Such are the dispositions which the human 
fancy naturally imagines as guiding the employment 
of irresistible might. Our terrors (as Father Male- 
branche remarks) justify themselves, by suggesting 
appropriate persuasions of impending evil, and com^ 
pel us to regard the possessor of unlimited powers 
as a tyrant. 

The second ciiaracteristic of the Deity is an un- 
known acnd incomprehensible agency. Now an in- 
comprehensible mode of behaviour, not reducible iX) 
any known principles, is in human affairs termed 
caprUxy when confined^o the trifling occurrences of 
life ; insanity y when it extends to importantoccasions. 
The capricious or the insane are those whose pro- 
ceedings we cannot reconcile with the acknowledged 
laws of human conduct — those whose conduct defies 
our utmost sagacity of prediction. They are incom- 
prehensible agent's endued with limited power. The 
eipithetscapriciouSy insane, incomprehensihk, are per- 
fectly convertible and synonymous. 

Let experience now teach us the feelings witti 
which mankind usually regard the mad, the way- 
ward, and the unfathomable course of proceeding 
among themselves. They laugh at the caprices of a 


child ; they tremble at the incoherent speech and 
gestures of a madman. Every one shrinks with dis- 
may from the presence of the latter; the laws in- 
stantly enclose his body, and thrust upon it the in- 
vincible manacles of matter, since no known appre- 
hension will act as a sufficient coercive upon his 
mind. Caprice and insanity, when accompanied 
even with the limited strength of a man, excite in us 
the keenest alarm, which is only heightened by the 
indefinite shape of the coming evil. 

But let us suppose this object of our terror to be 
still farther strengthened. What if we arm the in- 
comprehensible man with a naked sword! What if 
we figure him, like the insane Orlando of Ariosto, 
roaming about with an invulnerable hide, and limbs 
insensible to the chain! What if, still farther, he 
be entrusted with the government of millions, se- 
conded by irresistible legions who stand ready at his 
beck ! Can the utmost stretch of fancy produce any 
picture so appalling, as that of a mad, capricious, 
and incomprehensible Being exalted to this over- 
whelming sway? Yet this terrific representation in- 
volves nothing beyond surpassing might, wielded by 
one whose agency is unfathomable. And these- are 
the two attributes, the alliance of which, in a mea- 
sure still more fearful and unlimited, constitutes the 
Deity, as pourtrayed by natural religion. 

So complete is this identity between incompre- 
hensible conduct and madness, that amongst early 
nations, the madman is supposed to be under the im- 
mediate inspiration and controul of the Deity, whose 
agency is always believed to commence where cohe- 
rent and rational behaviour terminates. 

But the Deity (it will be urged) treats us with 
favour and kindness, and this may suffice to remove 
our appreh^osions of him. I reply, that the most 
valuable gift could never efface them, while the 
proceedings of the donor continued to be entirely 


inconsistent and unintelligible. It is the very essence 
of caprice and madness, that present behaviour con- 
stitutes no security whatever for the future. Our 
disquietude for the future must therefore remain as 
oppressive as before, and can never be relieved by 
these occasional gCists of transient good-humour. 
As few men hope, and almost every one fears, in 
cases where no assured calculation can be framed, 
it is obvious that this irregular favouritism would 
still leave us in all the restlessness of suspense and 

The actual conception, therefore, which mankind 
will form of the Deity, from the consideration of 
those original data which unassisted natural religion 
promulgates concerning him, seems now to be suffi- 
ciently determined. He will not be conceived as 
designing constant and unmixed evil, for otherwise 
his power would carry it into effect; nor, for the 
same reason, as meditating universal and unceasing 
good. While there exists" good in the universe, 
such a power cannot be wielded by perfect malevo- 
lence ; while there exists evil, it cannot be directed by 
consummate benevolence \ Besides, either of these 

* Plato tells us that the Deity is perfectly and systematically 
well intentioned, but that he was prevented from realizing these 
designs, by the inherent badness and intractable qualities of mat- 
ter. This supposition does indeed vindicate the intentions of the 
supreme Being, but only by grievously insulting his power and 
limiting his omnipotence. According to jhis theory, the Deity 
becomes a perfectly comprehensible person; and the attribute of 
incomprehensibility being taken away, all the preceding reasonings 
which are founded on it fall to the ground. But at the same time 
that he becomes perfectly comprehensible, he becomes a thorough 
dead letter with regard to all human desires and expectations. For * 
by the supposition his power only extends to the production of the 
already existing Amount of good. He can produce no more good 
— that is, he can be of no farther use to any one, and therefore it is 
vain to trouble ourselves about- him. 

But what evidence is there for this doctrine of Plato? Not the 
shadow of an argument can be produced in its favour, and where 
nothing is set up as a defence, one cannot tell where to aim an 


two suppositions would destroy the attribute of imcom- 
prehensibility, and would substitute in their stead a 
consecutive and intelligible system of action. The 
Deity therefore will be conceived as fluctuating be- 
tween the two; sometimes producing evil, some- 
times good, but infinitely more as an object of terror 
than of hope. His changeful and incomprehensible 
inclinations will be supposed more frequently pernio 
cious than beneficial to mankind, and the portrait of 
a capricious tyrant will thus be completed* 

2. Unamiable, however, and appalling as this con- 
ception may actually be, it is equally undeniable 
that no language, except that of the most devoted 
reverence and eulogy, will ever be employed in de$* 
cribing or addressing the Deity. To demonstrate 
this, it will be necessary to revert to the origin of 
praise and blame. 

Praise is the expression of goodwill and satisfaction 
towards the person who has occassioned us a cer- 
tain pleasure. It intimates a readiness on our part 
to manifest this goodwill by some farther repajrment. 
It supposes the performance of a service which we 
have neither the right to expect, nor the means of 
exacting. We bestow it in order to evince to the 
perfonner of the service and to the public in general, 
that we are not insensible to the favour received, 
and that we are disposed to view all who thus bene- 
fit us with peculiar complacency. Our praise there- 
fore is destined to operate as a stimulus to the repe- 
tition of that behaviour by which we profit. 

attack. The only mode of assailing it is by constructing a 
similar phantom on one's own side, in order to expose the absur- 
dity of the first by its resemblance to the second. Conformably 
to this rule, I affirm that the Deity is perfectly and systematically 
malevolent, and that he was only prevented from realising these 
designs by the inherent goodness and incorruptible excellence of 
matter. I admit that there is not the smallest evidence for this, 
but it is just as well supported, and just as probable as the precede 
ing theory of Plato. 


Blame, on th^ contrary^ i» the signal of dissatis- 
faction and \rrath against the person who has cansed 
lis pain. It implies a disposition which would be 
gratified by inflicting injury upon him. It proclaims 
to him, and to every one eke, our sense of the hurt, 
and the perils prepared for all who treat us in a simi- 
lar manner. And we design, by means of it, to 
frighten and deter every one from conduct noxioua 
to our welfare. 

Such is the origin and such the intention of the 
language of encomium and dispraise. Each is a 
species of sanction, vested in the hands of every in- 
dividual, and employed by him for his own benefit; 
the former remuneratoryy and destined to encourage 
the manifestation of kindness towards him; the lat- 
ter pumtoryy and intended to prevent injurious treat* 

Having thus unfolded the nature of praise and 
c^i^ure, it will not be difficult to explain the laws 
which govern their application; and to separate the 
circumstances in which a man will praise, from those 
in which he will blame. 

Our employment of the punitory sanction, or of 
blame, is in exact proportion to our power; our em- 
ployment of the remuneratory sanction, or of praise, 
is in a similar manner proportional to our weakness. 

The man of extraordinary power, who possesses 
unlimited disposal of the instruments of terror, has 
not the slightest motive to praise. His blame, the 
herald and precursor of impending torture, is abun- 
dantly sufficient to ensure conformity to his will. 
The remuneratory sanction is in its nature compara- 
tively feeble and uncertain ; the punitory, when ap- 
plied in sufficient magnitude, is altogether infallible 
and omnipotent. He who possesses an adequate 
command of the latter, will never condescend to 
make use of the former. He will regard himself as 
strictly entitled to the most imqualified subservience 


on the part of those whom he might in an instant 
plunge into excruciating torments. If he partially 
waives the exercise of this prerogative, he will consi- 
der it as an undeserved extension of mercy. 

On the other hand, the man without strength or 
influence, who cannot hurt us even if he wished it, 
is cut off from the employment of the punitory sanc- 
tion. His blame is an impotent murmur, threaten- 
ing no future calamity, and therefore listened to with 
indifference. It would, under these circumstances, 
revolt and irritate us, or else provoke our derision. 
In either case, it would only render us less disposed 
to conform to his will, and policy therefore will in- 
duce him to repress it altogether. His sole method 
of influencing our behaviour is by a prodigal employ- 
ment of the remuneratory sanction — by repaying the 
slightest favour with unbounded expressions of grati- 
tude — by lavishing upon us such loud and devoted 
eulogy, as may impress us with his readiness to con- 
secrate to our benefit all the energies of a human be- 
ing, if we condescend to repeat our kindness. Such 
are the methods by which he endeavours to magnify 
and exaggerate the slender bounty which fortune 
permits him to apply in encouragement of the fa- 
vours of mankind. 

The most copious experience may be adduced in 
support of these principles. Does the planter, whom 
the law arms with unlimited power, bestow any eu- 
logy upon his slave, in return for the complete mono- 
poly of his whole life and services ? He considers 
himself as entitled to demand all this, since he pos- 
sesses the means of extorting its fulfilment. Let us 
trace the descending scale of power, and mark how 
the approach of weakness gradually unsheaths the 
remuneratory sanction . Were his free labourer 
(particularly in those lands where labour is scarce 
and highly paid) to work in his employment with an 
energy and devotion at all comparable to that which 


he exacts from his slave, the planter would be prompt 
in applying the stimulus £ind encouragement of eu- 
logy. A slighter service, on the part of a friend of 
equal rank, vvrill draw from him encomiums on the 
kind and generous temper by which he has benefited. 
But the merest civility, even a peculiar look or word, 
bestowed by the king or a superior, is sufficient to 
impress upon him the deepest esteem and reverence. 
He loudly extols the gracious deportment of a per- 
son upon whom he had no claim, and fropi whom he 
could have entertained no expectations. 

If any one makes me a present of a considerable 
sum, I magnify his bounty to the skies ; I recom- 
mend him to the public by all the epithets signifi- 
cant of kindly and beneficent feelings, and thus dis- 
play the conspicuous return which I am ready to 
mate for such treatment. But let the government 
grant me a claim upon his estate, however unjustly, 
and the premium of praise is no longer necessary 
when I am thus master of the engine of exaction. I 
no longer therefore bestow upon him, by whose la- 
bour I profit, those laudatory terms which promise 
good will on my part. "Is it not enough for him 
(said Charles I. when the death of Lord Northamp- 
ton was commended to his sympathy) — " Is it not 
enough that he has died for his king?" So 
thoroughly is the standing demand which any one 
makes upon his fellow-creatures, measured by the 
extent of his compulsory power. It i§ upon those 
services only, which overstep this limit, and which he 
possesses not the means of extorting, that he will 
expend the tribute of his praise, or waste the incen- 
tive which it offers to a future reproduction of fa- 
vours. Charles I. would not have uttered such a 
sentence the day before his execution. 

With the weak, again, the punitory sanction is 
completely silenced and annulled. A slave never 
dreams of announcing dissatisfaction at the conduct 


of his master. If he did so, the consequence would 
be an additional infliction of stripes. In despotic 
governments you hear not a murmur iagainst the op- 
pressor — at least, until excess of suffering produces^ 
desperation. The entire extinction of all free senti- 
ment among dependants and courtiers has become 
proverbial. They dare not express even that indi- 
rect and qualified censure of their superior, which is 
implied in dissenting fromiiis opinion. They tole- 
rate his insults with a patience and complacency for 
which they reimburse themselves in their conversa- 
tion with inferiors. Not only do they abstain from 
hinting that there is any censurable ingredient in his 
character, but they dare not even withhold their en- 
comiums, lest they should seem to doubt his exalted 
merit. It is unnecessary to cite particular instances 
of a subservience and flattery so notorious. 

In proportion as we raise the inferior into equality,* 
his blame becomes more efficaeious, and is proclaim- 
ed ofterier and more freely. Advance him still 
higher, and his propensity to find fault will be still 
farther extended, until at last it becomes so excitea- 
ble and eruptive, as to disregard altogether the feel- 
ings of others, and to visit with merciless severity 
the most trivial defect of conformity to his wishes. 

From this examination we may extract some im- 
portant principles, which will materially elucidate 
the object of the present enquiry. It appears, first, 
that the employment of-praise or blame bears an ex- 
^ act ratio to the comparative weakness or strength of 
the critic. Weakness determines praise, strength 
blame; and the force of either sentiment is measured 
by the extent of the determining quality. The 
greater the disparity of power, the more severe is the 
blame heaped upon the inferior, the more excessive 
the praise lavished upon the superior. Secondly, 
the employment of praise and blame is in an ihverse 
ratio to each other. He who praises the most. 


y?unes the least; he who blames the most, scarcely 
praises at all. The man to whom the utmost praise 
is addressed, seldom hears any blame — and vice 
verm. Thirdly, the application of praise and blame 
bears an inverse ratio to. the services performed. 
The greater the service rendered, the more is the 
perfornier of it blamed; the less is he praised. . 
There is no humaa being from whom the planter de- 
rives go much benefit as from his slave; there is none 
. upon whofn he expends so little eulogy, or pours so 
ijmiqh reproach. On the contrary, it is towards hiin 
wji^ h^s the largest pov^er of inflicting evil upon us, ( 
ajid >yhQ ponfers on us the most insignificant favours, 
that gur iencomiunjis are the warmest,, our censure 
tl^j^.flaosjt gentle and sparing. A mere intermission 
of the vvhip, or perhaps an occasional holiday, will 
4r^w forth abundai^jt expressjop of praise on the part 
Qf thes ?}3.v^. Hpw gracious and beneficent is 9. sor ^ 
y/^eigi^ styled, by hnn upon whom he has bestowed 
a single \qo\ of favour! The vehemence of o,ur 
praise \^ thp^ not naeasurfd by the extent pf thj? 
^i^d^ess bestowed, but by the superiority of the 4^" 
^ypr tp t:he receiver, and implies pjuly the dependen^ce 
an^ 4isparity of the latter. 

Ktjie jforiCjgping accpunt pf praise and blame be 
c^re-ct,. jt^ presents an entire solution of the apparent 
difcr^^ppiQpy )vhich suggi^sted itself at tbpcpmmence- 
fnent; of tl^e • enquiry. It e:icplaxns how the peity^ 
j^ltlioiugh ^^jtu^y copc^ived (from the mere dat^ of 
pflLJturaTrelyigipn) as .a c^ricious despot, is yet never 
^eperibed or ^.^dressed withpiutihe largest and mo$t 
pjTodigsil , ^ffycppaiumg. for where is the case in 
wJtach so tremen<iaus an exaltation of the ageo^ 
above the subject can be pointed out? Where \^ the 
jcomparative ^n^eati^ess of tiie latter so deplorably 
msinifest ? The power of which we speak is unlimited, 
:and therefore ^ith respect to it, we are altogether 
proRtr^t^ ^j\^ abject. It is, un4er %^q\x circuip- 
^ 5 • . 


stances, the natural course, that we should abstain 
from all disparaging and provocative epithets, and re- 
press every whisper which might indicate a tone of 
disaffection towards the Omnipotent. , '' Personne 
n'aime a prendre une peine inutile, mfeme un enfant," 
observes Rousseau ; and to proclaim an impotent ha- 
tred, besides being unmeaning and irrational,, might 
prove positively noxious, by alienating any inclina- 
tion to benefit us on the part of the Supreme. How- 
ever painful may be the treatment which we experi- 
ence at his hands, we must cautiously refrain from 
pronouncing our genuine sentiments of the injury, 
inasmuch as such a freedom might prolong or aggra- 
vate, but could never extenuate, our sufferings. 

The same weakness will give birth to an extrava- 
gant and unsparing use of the remuneratory sanction. 
We know well how little our epithets really signify 
or promise, since the Deity stands in no need of our 
good offices ; atid therefore we endeavour to bestow 
force upon this host of unmeaning effusions by multi- 
plying its numbers, and by piling up superlative 
upon superlative. We magnify the smallest crumb 
into a splendid benefaction, which merits oi> our 
part a return of endless devotion to his service. 
By thus testifying our own ready subservience — by 
applying to hin^ terms significant of qualities mo- 
rally good slnd beneficial to mankind, and thereby in- 
timating that every one else owes to him a similar 
gratitude — we hope to constitute something like a 
motive for repeating the favour. This varied and 
exuberant flattery is the only mode of soothing the 
irritability of an earthly despot, and therefore we 
naturally apply it to one of still more surpassing 

Suppose that any tyrant could establish so com- 
plete a system' of espionage, as to be informed of 
every word which any of his subjects might utter: 
It is obvious that all criticisms upon him would be 



laudatory in the extreme, for they would be all pro- 
nounced as it were in the presence of the tyrant, and 
there we know that no one dares to express even dis- 
sent of opinion. The unlimited agency of the Deity y 
is equivalent to this universal espionage. He is con- ^ 
ceived as the unseen witness of every thing which 
passes our lips — indeed even of our thoughts. It 
would be madness, therefore, to hazard an unfavou- 
rable judgment of his proceedings, while thus con- 
stantly under his supervision. 

It seems, therefore, suflSciently demonstrated, that 
the same incomprehensible power, which would 
cause the Deity to be conceived as a capricious des- 
pot, would also occasion him to be spoken of only 
under titles of the loftiest eulogy. For language is 
not the sign of the idea actually existing in the mind 
of the speaker — but of that which h6 desires to con- 
vey to the hearer. In the presents case these two 
ideas are completely at variance, as they must uni- 
formly be where there is an excessive disparity of 

It has been necessary to pursue the enquiry into 
the character of the Deity, as pourtrayed by natu- 
ral religion, to a length which may possibly seem te- 
dious. But as the rule of conduct, to which natu- 
ral religion applies her inducements, depends altoger 
ther on the conceptions framed of the invisible go- 
vernor of a posthumous existence — it is of the higheat 
moment to lay bare tl^e actual conception^ of him, 
in order to ascertain whether a behaviour adjusted 
according to them will be beneficial or injurious to 

Since the dispositions of the Deity are> in this unr 
enlightened condition, supposed to be thus caprici- 
ous and incomprehensible, it may seem extraordinary 
that mankind should have attempted to assign to 
tjiem a definite boundary, by marking out any line 
of conduct as agreeable or disagreeable to him. 


But the fact is, that the terms incomprehensible 
and unlimited are merely negative, and therefore have . 
no positive meaning whatever: Their actual im- 
port is, that the Deity is a being of whom we know 
less, and who has more power, than any other. We 
conceive him as differing only in degree from other 
possessors of power, and we therefore assimilate him 
the most closely to those earthly sovereigns in whom 
the most irresistible might resides. 

We are thus furnished with a clue to the actionis 
which unassisted natural religion will represent as 
agreeable and odious to the Deity. Experience an- 
nounces to us what practices will recommend us to 
the favour of terrestrial potentates, and what will 
provoke their enmity. From this analogy (the near- 
est we can attain upon the subject) will be copied 
the various modes of behaviour which the Deity is 
imagined to- favour or abominate. To pursue the 
former course and avoid the latter, will be the direc- 
tive rule to which the inducements of natural reli- 
gion affix themselves. This directive rule will in- 
deed ramify into many accidental shapes, among 
different nations; but its general tenor and spirit 
will, throughoiit, be governed by the analogy just 
m:entioned, since that is our nearest resource and 
^ubstitut^ in the total silence of experience. 

The central passion in the mind of a despbt is an 
insatiate love of dominion, and thirst for its increase. 
All his approbation and disapprobation, all his acfe 
of reward and punishment, are wholly dictated by 
this master-principle. I state this in a broad and 
unqualified manner; but I feel warranted by the 
amplest evidence, and by the concurrent testimony 
of political writers, almost all of whom stigmatise ih 
the harshest language the unbridled government of 
a single man. 

Pursuing this clue, it will not be difficult to dis- 
tinguish those characters which he will mark out.ias 


estimable or hateful. The fotemost in his i^fetimAtion 
will be that man who most essentially contributes 
to the maintenance of his powet : the greatest object 
of his hatred will be he Who most eminently 
threatens its annihilation. Next in the catalogue of 
merit will be inserted the person who can impress 
upon his mind, iti the most vivid and forcible man- 
ner, the delicious conviction of his supremacy — who 
can re-kindle this association continually^ and strike 
out new modes of application to prevent it ftxym 
subsiding into indifference. Next in the list of de- 
merit will appear the name of him, whose conduct 
tends to invalidate this consciousness of overwhelm- 
ing might — whose open defiance or tardy conformity 
generates mistrust and apprehension — or who> at 
least, can contemplate with an unterrified and uninflu- 
enced 6ye the whole apparatus of majesty. Such will 
be the most eminent subjects, both of favour and 
disgrace, on the part of the d^pot. 

In all cases where the gratification of his love of 
power is allied with the happiness of his subjects, 
qualities conducive to that happiness will recotntnend 
themselves to his pE^tronage. But it is a melancholy 
truth, that this coincidence seldom^ we might say 
never y occurs. He who is thus absorbed in love of 
dominion, cannot ayoid loving the correlative and 
inseparable event — ^the debasement of those over 
whom he rules ; in order thai his own supremacy may 
become more pointed and prominent. Of couree 
he also has an interest in multiplying theit privations, 
which are the symptoms and measure of that debase^ 
ment. Beside^, his leading aim is to difiuse among 
his subjects thekeenest impressions ^Df his owo power. 
This is, in other words, to plant in their bosoms aft 
incessant feeling of helplessness, insecurity and feari; 
and were this aim i-ealized, everything which deserves 
the name of happiness must, throughout their lives, 
be Altogether over shadowed and stifled. 


Doubtless there will be occasions on which the 
^iew.of prosperity will gratify him. Such will be 
the case when it is strongly associated with the ex- 
ercise of his own creative fiat — and when its depend- 
ance upon and derivation from himself is so glaring 
as to blazon forth conspicuously the majesty of the 
donor. In order thus to affect the public mind, 
his benefits must be rare in their occurrence, be- 
stowed only on a few, and concentrated into striking 
and ostentatious masses. ' All the prosperity, there- 
fore, in which he will, take an interest will be that of 
a few favourites; his own work, achieved by the 
easy process of donation. This munificence of tem- 
per, however, is not only not coincident with the 
happiness of the community, but is altogether hos- 
tile to it. The former, because the real welfare of 
the many is to be secured not by occasional fits of 
kindness, but by the slow and unobtrusive eflect of 
systematic regulations, built upon this study of hu- 
man nature, discoverable only by patient thought, and 
requiring perpetual watchfulness in their application : 
The latter, because these donatives are at the bot- 
tom mere acts of spoliation, snatching away the^ 
labours of the many for the benefit of a favoured 

It thus plainly appears that the despot can never 
derive any pleasure firom the genuine well being of 
the community, though he may at times gratify 
himself by exalting individuals to sudden pre-emi- 
nence over the rest. Consequently the qualities 
conducive to the happiness of the community will 
not meet with the smallest encouragement firom him. 
They >YiU ^ven be discouraged, indirectly at least, 
by the preference shewn to other qualities not con- 
tributory to this end. But the personal affections 
of the despot have been shewn to lead, in almost all 
cases, to the injury of the people. And therefore 
those mental habits, which tend to gratify these 


affections, will be honoured with his unqualified 
approval; those which tend to frustrate them, wilt 
incur his detestation. In the former cateJogue will 
be comprised all the qualities which lessen and de- 
press human happiness ; in the latter, all which 
foster and improve it. 

Such is the scale according to which the praise 
arid censure, the rewards and pjunishments, of the 
earthly potentate, will be dispensed. By this model, 
the nearest which experience presents, the concep- 
tions of mankind must be guided, in conjecturing 
the character and inclinations of the Deity. 

The first place in the esteem of the Deity will, in 
pursuance of this analogy, be allotted to those who 
disseminate his influence among men— who are most 
effectually employed in rendering his name dreaded 
and reverenced, and enforcing the necessity of per- 
petual subjection to him. Priests, therefore, whose 
lives are devoted to this object, will be regarded as 
the most favoured class. 

The largest measure of his hate will in like iiian- 
ner be supposed to devolve on those, who attempt 
to efface these apprehensions, and to render man- 
kind indepeadent of him, by removing the motives 
for their subjection. The most decisive way of ef- 
fecting this is by presuming to call in question his 
existence — an affront of peculiar poignancy, ta which 
the material despot is not exposed. Atheists, there^ 
fore, will be the persons whom he is imagined to 
view with ,the most signal abomination. 

Immediately beneath the priests will be placed 
those who manifest the deepest and most permanent 
sense of his agency and power — in words, by the woh 
ceasing use of hyperbole, to extol the Deity and 
depress themselves— in action, by abstaining an his 
account from agreeable occupations, and pej^fuling 
ceremonies which can be ascribed to no other-motive 
than the desire of pleasing him. Works, which 




can be ascribed to this motive aloue, must from 
their very nature produce no good at all, or at least 
very little : for were they thus beneficial, they would 
be recompensed with the esteem and gratitude of 
mankind, and the performer of them might be sus- 
pected of having originally aimed at this indepen- 
dent advantage. Whereas he who whips himself 
every night, or prefaces every mouthful with a de- 
votional formula, can hardly be supposed to have 
contemplated the smallest temporal profit, or to have 
had any other end in view, than that of pleasing the 
Deity. Such actions will be thought to convey to 
him the liveliest testimony of his own unparalleled 
influence, and the performers of them will be placed 
second in the scale of merit. 

Next to Atheists, his highest displeasure will be 
conceived to attach to those who either avowedly 
brave his power, or tacitly slight and disregard it — 
who indulge in language of irreverent censure, or 
withhold the daily offering of their homage and pros- 
tration — who dwell careless of his supremacy^ and 
decline altogether the endurance of privations from 
which no known benefit, either to themselves or 
others, can arise. Such persons assume an indepen- 
dence which silently impli^ that the arm of the 
Deity is shortened and cannot r«ach them ; and they 
will, therefore, be considered as the n^xt objects of 
his indignation. 

> These then are the qualities, wjiich the natural re- 
ligionist, guidedby the experience of temporal poten- 
tates, will imagine the Deity to favour or dislike. 
To this e^^trancous directive rule, therefore, the in- 
ducements of natural religion, and the expectations 
of a posthumous life, will apply themselves. Nor 
can we doubt, for an instant, that such a rule is highly 
detrimiential to human Jiappiness in this life. 
. It cannot be otherwieue, so long as nothing more is 
known of the Deity except that, he possesses a su- 


per-human power, ajwJ that wc cauuot un^erstend hii 
course of action. It is the essence of power to ex- 
act obedience; and obediencje involve* privation and 
suffering On the part of the iaferior. The Deity hav- 
ing power over all mankind,^ exacts an obedience 
co-extensive with his power; tl^refore all mankind 
must obey him, or, in other words, immolate to bis 
supremacy a certain portion of their happiness. He 
loves human obedience; that is, h&h delighted with 
human privaticms and pain, for these are the test 
and measure of obedience. He is pleased, when his 
power is felt and acknowledged: That is, be de- 
lights to behold a sense of abassement, helplessness,, 
and terror, prevalent amoi>g mankind* If, under 
the earthly despot, rewards and punishments are un-' 
deniably distributed in a manner injurious to human 
happiness— under the Grod of unassisted natural relir 
giota, whose attributes nmst be borrowed from the 
despot, the case must be similar. Thc?re is ind«jd 
this difference which deserves to be remarked— that 
those deductions from human happiness which. the 
temporal potentate requires, are altogether unprd-^ 
ductive aifed . final : While those exacted by ther 
Deity, though embracing the very same period, are 
in comparison transient and preparatory, entitling 
the contracting party to the amplest posthumous- re- 
imbursenaent. In the former case, the expenditure 
of suffering is a dead loss ; in the latter, it is a judi- 
cious surrender of present, in expectation of future, 

But it may be urged in oppoaition, that the Deity 
is like a beneftcenfc judge, and not like a despot — 
that he fetters individual taste no farther than is ne- 
cessary for the happiness of the whole. Revela^on 
may doubtiess thii« characterise him; but naturai 
religion can nevep pourtray him under this amiable 
aspect. His powier is irresistible, and therefore all li** 
mitiaticms of it must be voluntary and self-imposed • 



How then can we venture to assume, that he will ex- 
act from individuals no more self-denial than is re- 
quisite for the benefit of the whole, unless it shall 
please him specially to communicate to us his recog- 
nition of such a boundary? We cannot possibly 
know what boundary he will select, until he informs 
us. Prior to revelation, therefore, the Dejty can be 
conceived as nothing else but a despot^ — that is, the 
possessor of unrestricted sway. To compare him 
with a beneficent judge, is an analogy wholly fallaci- 
ous and inadmissible. Why is the judge beneficent ? 
Because his power is derivative, dependent and re- 
sponsible. Why does he impose upon individuals 
no farther sacrifices than are necessary to ensure the 
well being of the society? Because all the compul- 
sory force which he can employ is borrowed from the 
society, who will not permit it to be used for other 
purposes. Suppose these circumstances altered, and 
that the judge possesses himself of independent un- 
responsible power: The result is, that he becomes 
a despot, and ceases altogether to be beneficent. 
It is only when thus strengthened and unshackled 
that he becomes a proper object of comparison with 
the Deity-^and then, instead of a judge, he degene- 
rates invariably into an oppressor and a tyrant. 

Amongst other expressions of reverence towards 
the Deity, doubtless the appellation of a judge, one 
of the most adorable functions which can grace hu- 
manity, will, not be omitted. But we have already 
shewn that the language of praise is not on this oc- 
casion to be considered as indicating the existence 
of truly valuable qualities in the object. Because 
that immensity of power, which is the distinguishing 
attribute of the Deity, distorts the epithets of eulogy, 
and terrifies us into an offer of them, by way of pro- 
pitiation, whether deserved or not by any preced- 
ing service. 

It seems clear then from the foregoing inquiry. 


that the posthumous hopes and fears held out by na- 
tural religion, must produce the effect of encourag- 
ing actions useless and pernicious to mankind, but 
agreeable to the invisible Dispenser, so far as his at-, 
tributes are discoverable by unaided natural religion 
— and our conceptions of his character, are the only 
evidence on which we can even build a conjecture 
as to the conduct which may entail upon us posthu- 
mous happiness or misery. Whatever offers an en- 
couragement to useless or pernicious conduct, ope- 
rates indirectly to discourage that which is benefi- 
cial and virtuous. In addition, therefore, to the po- 
sitive evil which these inducements force into exist-, 
ence of themselves, they are detrimental in another 
way, by stifling the growth of genuine excellence, 
and diverting the recompence which should be exclu- 
sively reserved for it. 


Further Considerations on the temporal usefulness of 
that rule of action, which the inducements of Natural 
Religion enforce. 

Though the preceding argument, drawn from the 
character which unassisted reason cannot fail to as- 
cribe to the Deity, seems amply suflBcient to evince 
that the expected distribution of his favour and en- 
mity is not such as to stimulate useful, and to dis- 


eountentince pernicious conduct, (regarding merely 
the present life) ; yet I shall subjoin a few considera- 
tions in addition, which may tfend to corroborate and 
enforce my principles. 

1. Suppose that by any peculiar perversion of 
reason, all belief in a God or in a future state should 
die away among the votaries of some Pagan system. 
Is it not perfectly unquestionable, that all which had 
been before conceived as the injunctions of natural 
religion, would at once be neglected and forgotten? 
We need not take any trouble to demonstrate this, 
partly because it is so obvious a consequence, partly 
because it is always implied in the outcry raised 
against atheistical writings. 

. But the sources of pleasure and of pain, in this 
eotaimunity, would still mmaia unaltered with re* 
gard to the present life, even in the state of impiety 
into which they had just plunged. What had been 
useful or pernicious to them before, would still con- 
tinue to be so. They would have precisely the same 
motive to encourage the former and to repress the 
latter. Can any reason be given why their rewards 
and punishments should be insufficient to effect this 
end ? There will still, therefore, remain in the bo- 
som of each individual, ample motive to behaviour 
beneficial to the society — ample motive against con- 
duct injurious to it. * 

To Select a particular example, Hfe who was, be- 
fore the influx of d&beiief, a skilful and diligent 
tradesman or physician, will he on a sudden become 
imprudent or remiss ? Will he become indifferent to 
the acquisition of emolument and importance? It 
will not surely be contended, that any such altera- 
tion bf cfearafeter or conduct is to be anticipated. 
Apply a similar supposition to the same man in othi^ 
<japacities^— as a fether, a husband, a trustee, or aiiy 
other fanction in which the happiness of some anjioAg 
his fellows depends upon bis conduct. In neither of 


these cases will there be auy motive for him to de- 
viate from his former behaviour, supposing that to 
have been valuable and virtuous. But all the trans- 
actions, in which a man s conduct affects his fellow- 
creatures, may be comprised under some relation of 
this sort — ^and in none of these situations will he have 
any motive to exchange a beneficial for a noxious 
course of action. Consequently the expiration of re- 
ligious belief will leave perfectly sufiicient motive 
for the maintenance of conduct really useful to man- 

If the practices enjoined by natural religion would 
expire without its support, this must be because 
there is no motive left to perform them. But to say 
that there is no such n^otive, proves that the practices 
produce no temporal benefit whatever: E converso, 
therefore, he who would n;iaintain that pious works 
ate temporally beneficial, must also affirm, that there 
would be motive enough to perform them, supposing 
our earthly existence to terminate in annihilation. 
But no one ever thinks of asserting this: On 
the contrary, the vital necessity of implicit belief, 
as an incentive, is loudly proclaimed, and the cer- 
tain extinction of all religious performances, if unbe- 
lief should become general, is announced and de- 
plored. It is altogether inconsistent and contradic- 
tory, therefore, to maintain, that there is any tem- 
poral benefit annexed to these practices — since this, 
if true> must constitute a motive common both to 
believers c^nd unbelievers. 

2. If natural religion consisted in the practice of 
d;Ctions beneficial to mankind in the present life, 
the actipu$ enjoined by it would be the same all 
over the earth. The sources of human pleasure and 
pain are similar every where, and therefore the 
modes of multiplying both one and the other will be 
similar throughout. Take, for example, any parti- ' 


Cular branch of behaviour which is justly extolled as 
highly conducive to human happiness: You will 
find justice, veracity, or prudence, precisely the 
same in their nature, although practised with very 
different degrees of strictness, both in the East, and 
in the West. If therefore piety consisted of a col- 
lection of qualities calculated to produce temporal 
benefit, you would discover the same identity be- 
/ tween Pagan and Christian piety, as there is be- 
I tween Pagan and Christian justice or veracity. 

But the very reverse is most notoriously the fact. 
The injunctions and the practices of one religion are 
altogether different from those of every other. Be- 

/ lieyers in any one of them will view the rest with 
abhorrence. A Christian who visits a country where 
his religion has never been heard of, will doubtless 
expect to meet with just or veracious men, varying 
in frequency according to circumstances: but he 
will never once dream of discovering any Christians 
there. Christianity therefore does not consist in 
the manifestation of qualities which confer temporal 

/ benefit on mankind, since these are capable of uni- 
versal growth in every climate. 

A mere enquiry into the meaning of words will 
suffice to corroborate this. When we describe an 
individual as, belonging to any particular religion, 
the epithet implies that he entertains a certain set 
of persuasions, attested either by his own confession, 
or by a conformity, besides, to a peculiar class of 
ceremonial practices which characterize the system. 
But by merely indicating the religion to which he 
adheres, no information has been conveyed as to his 
moral qualities, or whether his conduct is beneficial 
or noxious to his fellows. It may beeither one or the 
other, whatever be the religion he adopts or believes, 
in. In order to state with which class it ought to 
be ranked, we must employ a very different language. 


We must describe him as a good Pagan or a bad 
Pagan — a just or an unjust Mussulman^ — veracious 
or a liar. 

Consequently an adherence to the injunctions of 
religion is something entirely different from an ha- 
bitual performance of beneficial actions. For the 
latter are every where uniform and identical, while 
the mandates of religion are infinitely various: 'And / 
farther, in mentioning the systetn of religion to 
which any individual belongs, we do not at all state 
whether his conduct is beneficent or pernicious — 
therefore an adherence to the system is perfectly con- 
sistent either with friendship or enmity to man- 

3. If the injunctions of piety inculcated perfor- 
mance or abstinence merely according as the action 
specified was beneficial or injurious in the present 
life, religion would be precisely coincident with 
human laws. For these latter are destined only to 
ensure the same end, employing temporal instead 
of posthumous sanctions. Religion would command 
and forbid the very same actions as the legislator, 
merely reinforcing his uncertain punishments with 
something more exquisite and more inevitable at 
the close of life. But it would give no new direction, 
of its own and for itself, to human conduct; It would 
originate no peculiar duties or crimes, but would 
appear simply as an auxiliary, to second and confirm 
that bias which the legislator would have attempted 
to imprint without it. 

Such would have been the case had the mandates 
of natural religion a tendency to produce temporal 
happiness. How widely different is the state of 
the fact! Throughout the globe, under every various 
system, we observe the most innocuous of human 
pleasuresvcriminated and interdicted by piety ; plea- 
sures such as the worst of human legislators never 
forbad, and never could discover any pretence for 


forbidding. We observe a peculiar path of merit and 
demerit traced out exclusively by religion— embrac- 
ing numerous actions which the law has left unnov 
ticed, and which we. may therefore infer, are not 
recognized as deserving^ither reward or punishment 
with reference to the present life. It is altogether 
impossible, therefore, that the mandates of natural 

- religion can be directed to the promotion of tempo- 
ral happiness, since they diverge so strikingly from 
the decreed of the legislators. Whatever other 
end they have in view, it cannot be the same as 

Indeed in modern times an express, discussion has 
arisen, whether the civil magistrate can with pro- 
priety interfere at all in matters of religion. Among 
the more enlightened thinkers, the doctrine of tole- 

I ration, or that' of leaving every man to recommend 
himself to God by the methods which he himself 
prefers, so long as he abstains from injuring- others, 
seems to be fully recognised. Scarcely any one now 
is found to vindicate the exaction of a forced uni- 
formity of worship. But the very existence of the 
dispute decisively implies, that religion is not natu- 
rally coincident, in her injunctions, with laws — that 

I no pious ritual is of a character tending in itself to 
promote the happiness of society. The intolerant 
party attempted to enforce the propriety of giving 
to law an express extension over an apparently in- 
dependent province ; Their opponents endeavoured 
^ to maintain this province still untouched and unre- 
gulated. If these acts could have been shewn to be 
productive of temporal benefit or evil, this would have 
been the point on which the question would have been 
determined, as it is with regard to other cases of 
human conduct. No one would have contested 
the necessity, in the present times at least, of inter- 
dicting any acts of worship which might consist ia 
wounding or plundering a neighbour. But the actual 


point in dispute was, whether out of a number of 
different rituals, perfectly on a level regarding tem- 
poral profit or injury, any particular one should be 
singly permitted and all the rest forbidden. The / 
argument on one side was, that the Deity preferred 
the species of worship which they were advocating; 
the other side protested against this doctrine, as an 
unwarranted assumption of infallibility. 

It is not my purpose to enter farther into this 
question, and I have only adduced it in order to 
evince, that the mandates of religion are altogether 
separate in their nature and application from those 
of law, and therefore cannot possibly be similar/ in 
the end which they &re destined to ensure— and 
also that this separation is virtually implied in both 
sides of the dispute on freedom of Worship. 

4. We uniformly find religious injunctions divided 
into two branches, the first embracing our duty to God, 
the second our duty to man. However beneficial 
may be the tendency of this latter section, it is quite 
impossible that the former can produce any temporal, 
happiness. For it is, by the very definition, a rule 
restrictive of our conduct on those occasions when 
the interests of other men are not at* all concerned. 
On these occasions the legislator would have left us 
unfettered, since every man naturally selects that 
path whichis most conducive to his temporal felicity. 
If any other course is thrust upon him from without, 
it must infallibly be a sacrifice of earthly happiness. 
That branch therefore, at least, of religious injunc- 
tions, which is termed our duty to God, must be re- 
garded as detrimental to human felicity in this life. 
It is a deduction from the pleasures of the individual, 
without at all t>enefiting the species. It must be con- 
sidered, so far as the present life is concerned, as a tax 
paid for the salutary direction which the branch term- 
ed our duty to man is said to imprint upon human 
conduct, arid for the special and unequalled efficacy, 



with which these sanctions are alleged to operate. 
Supposing also the Operation of this latter branch to 
be noxious instead of salutary, the payment of th§ 
tax will constitute so much additional evil. 


Of the Efficiency of the Inducements held out by Natural 
Religwn. now far super-humart Ejcpectations can 
be regarded as likely to prove influential^ where mf 
human Inducements would be influential. 

Ti^^R^ is some difficulty in estimating exactly the 
extent of influence which the super-human induce^- 
ments, held out by natural religion, actually exerci^^ 
over mankind. They appear always intermixed and 
confounded among that crowd of motives, which in 
every society submitted to our experience, impel 
human conduct in various directions. For the sdu- 
tion of the present enquiry, however, it is indispensa- 
bly reouisite to detach from this confused assemblage 
the inducements of natural religion, and to measure 
the force of the impulse which they communicate. 

There are two modes of determining this point. 
1. By analysing the nature and properties of these 
super-human inducements, and comparing.them wi1;h 
those human motive^ which commonly actug^te our 
conduct. We shall thus discover how far those ele- 
ments, which cpnstitute and measure the force and 
efficiency of all human expectations, are to be found 
in the super-human. 2. By examining those cas€;s 


wbefe accident pl^cti tft^m in a ^tute of singte aftd 
trateissisted agency^ and thus fortifying the prec^din^ 
analysis with the direct certificate of experience, 66 
fer as that is «ttdinttble. 

Beforfe, however, we ^nbark in thfe investigation, 
it will be important to examine in what degree the 
«uper-hnman expectations, supposing their influence 
purely beneficial^ can be considered as indispetfsablft 
instruments in the production of happiness in thiiS 
life; or in other words, what is the number and im* 
portance of those cases, in which human induce- 
ments would be inapplicable and inoperative, and 
in which posthumous expectations would efifectually 
-supply the defect. 

It will be easy to see that such cases are compa- 
mtivfely neither numerous nor important. For where- 
evet the legislator can distinguish what actions it i^ 
desirable either to encourage or to prevent, he can 
always annex to them a measure of temporal reward 
or punishment commensurate to the purpose. \t id 
only necessary that he should be able to distinguish 
and d^ne such actions. To affirm therefore the ne- 
. cfessity of a recurrence to super-human agency for 
the repression of any definable mode of conduct, id 
merely to say that human laws are defective and re- 
quire amendment. If this be true, let them be 
amended, and there will remain no ground fbr the 

The gradations (you* tirge^ by whiih guilt passed 
into honooence are often so nice as «€► be undi^covera- 
bte by the human eye, and to req'nire tfee sefiMt^hing 
gale of OAinipotettce to deteiet their rettl point ^ 
separation. Bvlt if this be^t^e <^e^ how is it possi- 
bfe for the 9^t himself to^ know wh^ h^ is acting 
wdl, And when he is v«t^g towards evil? The 
two areuiidistitignishat}l^t6,^ll men besides; why 
diQuld they be otibi^rW^ to him ? H^ knows his own 
viAta^Uf indeed) perfectly : it is tb pei^rni a (^eftiim 


action, of which no one can tell whether the tendency 
is beneficial or injurious. He himself cannot tell 
either; It is possible that he may suspect the action 
to be mischievous, and still intend to commit it. But 
he nxay be in error on this point, even after the most 
accurate consideration, and where the distinction 
between good and evil is so completely unassigna- 
ble, the chances of error are as great as those of 
truth. Expectation of punishment, in case of wrong 
decision, could only render him more attentive in 
weighing the consequences, and even after this, it 
appears, he would be just as likely to decide wrong 
as right. Consequently the expectation of punish- 
ment produces no benefit whatever. Besides, if he 
can judge correctly, the foundations of such a judg- 
ment may be comprehended, and the offence defined, 
by the legislator. In .all cases therefore in which 
guilt cannot be defined, and thence, no punishment 
awarded by the legislator, the apprehension of pun- 
ishment from any foreign source is unproductive of 
any advantage. 

But there are cases in which an individual may 
commit an act expressly forbidden by the law, re- 
lying on the impossibility or difficulty of detection. 
Doubtless there are such: Aiid it is impossible to 
deny that on those occasions the apprehension of a 
posthumous verdict, from which there was no escape, 
might possibly supply an unavoidable defect in the 
reach of humati laws. Secret crimes, however, are 
the only cases in which the super-human induce- 
ments can be pretended to effect an end to which 
human motives would be. inadequate. In all other 
occasions, the inefiicacy of human l^ws is nierely a 
reproach to the legislator, who neglects to remedy 
a known defect. And even in the case of hidden 
delinquencjr, how frequently is the escape of the 
criminal owing to mistakes perfectly corrigible, such 
as an unskilful police, exclusion of evidence, barba- 


rity in the punishment awarded, and other circum- 
stances which tend to unnerve the arm of the law! 
Supposing these imperfections to be removed, — sup- 
pose the penal code to be comprehensive and me- 
thodical, and its execution cheap, speedy, and vigi- 
lant, it would scarcely be practicable for the crimi- 
nal to escape detection, when it was known that the 
crime had been committed. 

It is only, therefore, when a crime is known, and 
the criminal undiscoverable, that super-human in- 
ducements can be vindicated as indispensibly neces- 
sary for the maintenance of good conduct. And as 
these cases must, under a well-contrived system, be 
uncommonly rare, the necessity and importance of 
such inducements must be restricted within very 
narrow limits. 

This is a point of some consequence. For if it 
should appea,r that these posthumous expectations 
are on many occasions of injurious tendency, the 
immedia:te inquiry must be, what exclusive benefit 
this mode of operating upon human conduct pre- 
sents, in preference to any other. In reply to which, 
we have just demonstrated, that those cases in 
which beneficial influence is derivable solely from 
this source and not from any other, are few and in- 
considerable. The extent of evil in this life would 
therefore be trifling, were super-human inducements 
entirely effaced from the human bosom, and earthly 
institutions ameliorated according to the progress of 
philc^sophy. The pernicious tendency, which the 
former manifest on many occasions, will thus be 
compensated only by a very slender portion of es- 
sential and exclusive benefit. ' 

These considerations also evince, that if it were 
practicable to supply the defect of human restric- 
tions by recourse to a foreign world, we should be 
anxious to import active and faithful informers — to 
purchase such a revelation as would render our in- 


Ifer^feftces of criminality moTfe easy, precise, and ex- 
tensive, in order that guilt mi^t never escapC^ our 
detection. We should not desire to introduce in^ 
^ti'um^nts for multiplying and {)rotracting human 
torture. With these we are abundantly provided, if 
it were prudent or desirable to employ them. N6 
earthly legislator, therefore, would attempt, if in hiis 
power, to perfect the efficacy of temporal enact- 
ments in ,the mode by which it is pretended that 
^sthumous expectations accomplish this beneficial 


Efficiency of super-human Inducefnmts to pr^>dMt t&m^ 
poral EvU. Their in^vkmy to produce tkn^iii 
. . Good. 

Since it has been shewn i^ a former chapter thit 
the directive rule, to which the inducements of na- 
t\;iral religion attach themselves, will infallibly be 
detrimental to human happiness, it follows of course 
that these inducements^ if they produce any effect 
at all, must be efficient to a mischievous, purpose. 
I now propose to investigate the exteift of influ* 
ence which they exercise ovjer mankind, as well as 
the manner of their operation. 

All inducements are expectations either of plea- 
sure or pain. Th0 force with which all expeota^' 
tioijLB 9iCt upon the human bdsotn varied according as 


they differ io, 1. Intensity, — %. .DumfciQtt,— ?5. Cwr 
t?iinty,-~4. Propinquity. These are the fQUr ek-' 
i»ent3 qf value which QonstitjitQ a&4 m^ia^ure A«^ 
cqmp^tative streagth of all huiijan roQtiyes. 

Take for example an expected pleaawre. What 
are the motives which govern a man in the inve^t-r 
went of money ? He prefers that mode in which thft 
profits are largest, mo^t certain, and quickest. Pre^ 
sent tQ him a speculation of greatea: hazard or in 
which hQ mm% be kept longer out of his money i ph^ 
Yalne^ of such an expeotation is Jess, and he will not 
embrace it unless allured by a larger profit. Defi-» 
ciency in certainty and propinquity will thus be 
compensated ^yan incT^^agie of intensity and dura^- 

To appreciate^ therefwe, the sway which posthu- 
mous expectations exercise oyer the behaviour of 
paankind, we must examine to what degree tftiey 
comprii^e these elements of v4lue. 

First, they are to the highest degree deficient in 
propinquity. Every one conceives them as extremely 
renM)te; and in the greatest number of instances, 
such repxoteness isi conformable to experience, as in^ 
surance calculations testify. 

Secondly, they are also defective in certainty. 
Posthumous pleasures and pains are reserved to be 
awarded in the lump, after a series of years. The only 
possible mode of distributing them, at such a pe* 
riod must be by reviewing the whole life of the indi- 
vidual— ^by computing his meritorious and culpable 
acts and striking a balance between them. It is im* 
possible to conqeive an expectation more deplorably 
uncertain, than that whiqh such a scale of award 
must generate. In order to strip it of this charac- 
ter of doubt, the individual should have kept an ex- 
act journal of his debtor and creditor account with 
reigard to post-obituary dispensations. Who ever 
does or ev^r did this? Yet if it 13 not done, soi uni- 

48 ^ 

versa! is self-deceit, that every man will unques- 
tionably over-estimate his own extent of observance. 
His impression will thus be, that he has a balance in 
hand, and that the performance of any particular for- 
bidden act will but slightly lessen the ample remain- 
der which awaits him. But suppose it otherwise — let 
him imagine that the balance is against him. There 
still remains the chance of future amendment and 
compensation, by which it jnay be rendered favoura- 
ble, and this prospect is incalculably more liable to 
exaggeration than the estimate which he forms of his 
past conduct. 

The prodigious excess to which mankind heap up 
splendid purposes for the coming year, is matter of 
notoriety and even of ridicule. A slight accession 
of punishment incurred by wl^at the individual may 
be about to do at the moment, will be lost in the 
Contemplation of the mass of subsequent reward. 
Posthumous expectations must, therefore, under 
every supposition, be pre-eminently defective in the 
element of certainty. 

To make up for this want of certainty and propin- 
quity, the pleasures and pains anticipated in a fu- 
ture life are (it will be urged) intense and durable to 
the utmost extent. Imagination, no doubt, (our sole 
guide under unassisted natural religion) may mag- 
nify and protract them beyond ail limit, since there 
is no direct testimony which can check her career. 
But it should be remarked that this excessive inten- 
sity and permanence can never be otherwise than 
purely imaginary, nor can the most appalling de- 
scriptions of fancy ever impart to them that steady 
and equable impressiveness which characterises a 
real scene subjected to the senses. As all our ideas 
of pleasure and pain are borrowed from experience, 
the most vivid anticipations we can frame cannot 
possibly surpass the liveliest sensation. Magnify 
the intensity as you will, this must be its ultimate 



boundary. But you never can stretch it even so 
high as this point : For to do this would be to exalt / 
the conceptions of fancy to a level with real and ^ 
actual experience, so that the former shall affect the 
mind as vividly as the latter — which is the sole cha- 
racteristic of insanity, and the single warrant for de- 
priving the unhappy madman of his liberty. 

If, indeed, the expectations actually created in the 
mind corresponded in appalKng effect to the descrip- 
tions of the fancy — and if the defects of certainty 
and propinquity could be so far counteracted as to 
leave these expectations in full possession of the 
mind — the result must be, absolute privation of rea- 
son, and an entire sacrifice of all sublunary enjoy- 
ment. The path of life must He as it were on the 
brink of a terrific precipice, where it would be im- 
possible to preserve a sound and distinct vision, and 
where the imminent and inextricable peril of our si- 
tuation would altogether absorb the mind, so as ta 
leave us no opportunity for building up any associa- 
tions of comfort or delight. A man who is to have 
an operation performed in a short space of time, can- 
not dismiss it from his thoughts for an instant; How 
much less, if he sees, or believes that he sees, a gi- 
gantic hand, armed with instruments of exquisite 
torture, and menacing his defenceless frame? 

Such must be the result, if these anticipations did 
jeally affect the mind in a degree proportional to 
their imagined intensity. They cannot be conceived 
as tolerably near and certain, without driving the 
believer mad, and without rendering it a far more 
desireable lot for him to have had no life at all, 
than the two lives taken together. Looking there- 
fore to the happiness of the present life alone, 
it appears to be merely saved from complete anni- 
hilation, by that diminished influence of the posthu- 
mous prospects which distance and uncertainty can- 
not fail to occasion. It is their inefficiency, and not 


their eflSciency, which constitutes the safeguard of 
human comfort. 

But what is the. real value of this residuary in- 
fluence? To determine this question, we must consult 
the analogy of human conduct and observe the effect 
of large expectations, when remote and uncertain, 
as compared with others of small amount^ but close 
at hand and specific. 

How painful arc the apprehensions which the 
approach of death creates ? . To preserve the mind 
from being altogether overpowered by them, and 
to maintain a cool deportment at such an instant, is 
supposed to be an effort of more than human firm- 
ness. Thus terrible and overwhelming is the pros- 
pect when m^ely apptoximated to the eye. Strip 
it of its propinquity, and all its effect upon the mind 
immediately vanishes. Its real terrors, its ultimate 
certainty, remain unimpaired ; but delay the moment, 
for a few years at farthest, and the whole scene is im- 
mediately dismissed from the thoughts. So confident 
and neglectful do we become upon the subject, 
that it requires more than ordinary fore-thought to 
make those provisions which a due regard to the 
happiness of our survivors would enjoin. 

This is an illustration of peculiar value, because 
it is a case in which mere remoteness practically 
annuls the most dreadful of all expectations, without 
insinuating even the most transient suspicion of ulti- 
mate escape. But if distance alone will produce so 
striking a deduction, how much will its negative effect 
be heightened, when coupled with uncertainty as to 
the eventful fulfilment? It seems apparent that these 
two negative circumstances, taken together, must 
altogether prevent the most painful anticipations 
from ever affecting the mind, unlei^ under very pe- 
culiar circumstancess, which we shall presently 

' This important principle, that a small amount of pain, if quick 


Analogy therefore seems to testify most indispu- 
tably, that sufferings so remote and so uncertain as 
those of a posthumous life, whatever may be their 
fancied intensity, can scarcely affect the mind at all, 
in its natural state. Sucb anticipations can only 
obtain possession of it when introduced by other 
analogous ideas, which have previously perverted 
the usual current of thought, and rendered it fit for 
their reception. Under such circumstances, thesel 
new allies cannot fail to aggravate niost powerfully . 
that tone of sentiment to which they owe their ori- 
gin. Their distance and uncertainty will be forgot- 
ten, and they will be conceived as imminent and in- 
evitable; while the impression of their intensity will 
be more vehement than ever. Such will be the 
case in the peculiar state of mind to which we here 
allude; But taking mankind as they usually think 
and judge, it is altogether contrary to experience 
that posthumous expectations should ever be other- 
wise than nugatOT^. 

and certain in its application, prorides a more effectual restraint 
than the most painful death, when delay and the chance of com* 
plete escape is interposed — seems to be pretty generally recog- 
nized at the present day. Instruments of torture have conse- 
quently become obsolete; and most of the alterations of the legis- 
lator have been designed to cure the lame foot, and to accelerate 
the pace of justice. In this, indeed, his aim has been not merely 
to prevent in the most complete manner the commission of crime, 
but also to prevent it at the the expence of the smallest possible 
aggregate of si^fFering. For to denounce penalties of shocking 
severity^ but tardy and uncertain in their execution, would be to 
create the greatest sum of artificial pain, with the least possible 
preventive effect. This would be entirely at variance with the ge- 
nuine spirit of legislation, whose end is the extension of human 
happiness by the eradication of noxious acts. This, however, can- 
not be the ptirpose of the God of natural religion; who is uniformly 
conceived (as I have before remarked) to delight in human misery, 
. and who is therefore supposed, with perfect consistency, to inflict 
pain where the pain itseli cannot produce a particlcof benefit, arid 
where* the anticipation of it can have no effect whatever in repres- 
sing vicious conduct. 

52 * 

Now if, according to the general tenor of thought, 
they become thus dormant and inoperative, they can- 
not possibly be employed as restraints upon crime. 
For when crime is committed, the mind is under the 
sway of a present and actuating temptation. It is 
not only exempt from all such associations as might 
contribute to kindle up the thoughts of posthumous 
terrors ; but it is under the strong grasp and impulse 
of a contrary passion, which fills it with ideas of a 
totally opposite character. So completely indeed 
does the temptation absorb the whole soul, that it 
is difficult in many cases to counteract it by the most 
immediate and^ unequivocal prospect of impending 
evil. But unless the punishment denounced obtrudes 
itself upon the delinquent with a force sufficiently 
pressing and inflexible to overbear the sophistry 6i 
temptation, we may be assured that he will be insen- 
sible to the threats and will commit the crime. How 
much more then, where the apprehended evil is so 
remote and uncertain, and the value of the expecta- 
stionso fluctuating and occasional, as to require a pe- 
culiarly favourable tone of thought before the mind 
can be induced to harbour it ? We are surely autho- 
rised in deeming an expectation so constituted alto- 
gether useless as a motive to resist any strong 

But what is that preliminary state of mind into 
which posthumous apprehensions find so easy an ad- 
mittance? It is that in which congenial feelings 
-have been predominant — a state of timidity and de- 
pression, when gloomy associations overspread the 
whole man, s^nd cast horror and wretchedness round 
his future prospects. In this condition, the foun- 
tains of all painful thought are opened, and posthu- 
mous terrors presfent an inexhaustible fund of kin- 
dred matter. Their distance and their uncertainty 
are of no consequence, for the mensuration of the 
mental eye is at such a period confounded, and it 


distinguishes not the scene before it. Their inde- 
terminate character renders them only the more ap- 
propriate, for the imagination demands but a plausi- 
ble pretence and outline, to conjure up the amplest 
detail of terrific particulars. In sickness and in ner- 
vous despondency, associations of this kind make 
their most disastrous inroads, and contribute most 
actively to plunge the mind into that state of unas- 
siiageable terror, which borders so closely on insan- 
ity, and frequently terminates in it. And in the 
hour of death, when these apprehensions seem on 
the brink of reality, they obtrude themselves in thick 
and appalling clouds, and aggravate that prostration 
both of bodily and mental faculties, which marks 
the close of existence. 

Such is the force, and such the mode of operation, 
belonging to these super-human expectations, when 
acting singly. And it appears from hence most un- 
deniably, that they are almost wholly inefficient on 
every occasion^hen it might have been possible for 
them to enlarge the sum of temporal happiness — and 
efficient only in cases where they swell the amount 
of temporal misery. 

For the only benefit which they are calculated to ac- 
complish would be the repression of crimes. To this 
purpose it has been shewn that they are wholly inade- 
quate ; for during the influence of temptation, the only 
season in which a man commits crime, they find no place 
in the mind, and therefore can interpose no barrier. 
On the other hand, they act with the highest effect 
at a period when they cannot by possibility pro- 
duce any temporal benefit — that is, at the close of 
- life : and the extent of their influence is always in 
an inverse ratio to the demand for it. The greater 
the previous despondency, the wider the space which 
they occupy, and the more powerfully do they con- 
tribute to heighten those morbid associations which 
the overmastered reason is unable to dispel. 



Analysis of the source from whence the real Efficiency 
of super-human Enjoyments is almost wholly derived. 

Since the inducements which w6 have been discus- 
sing are aitogeth^ impotent as a barrier to tempta- 
tion, and influential only in peculiar stat^ of mind, 
how happens it (we may be asked) that their domi- 
nion in human affairs should be apparently so exten- 
sive? The cause of thiis^ seeming contrariety, which 
merely arises from a misconception regarding the 
actual motives of mankind, I shall now endeavour 
to unfold. 

It ha^ already been shewn that the God of natural 
religion is uniformly conceived as delighting in the 
contemplation of his own superiority and in the 
receipt of human obedience—that is, in the debase- 
ment, the privations, and the misery of mankind. 
Now each man has a strong temptation to elude any 
payment % in his owa person, of these unpleasant 
burthens ; but he has no temptation whatever to avert 
from others the necessity of paying them. On the 
contrary, a powerful interest inclu3fces him to exert 

^ The Reverend Mr. Colton, (in a collection of thoughts entitled 
" Lacon'' — Vol. 1. XXV.) says, " Men will wrangle for religion; 
write fbr it; fight for it; die for it; any ikin^ but-— live for it." 
The same divine also asserts, in the same volume, CLXXXIX. 
Where true religion has prevented one crime, false religions have 
afforded a pretext for a thousand." There cannot be a stronger 
acknowledgement of the enormous balance of temporal evil, which 
religion, considered on the whole, inflicts on mankind. 

56 ' 

himself in strictly exacting^ from every other man the 
requisite quota. For the Deit]^, pleased with human 
<>bedienQe, will of course be pleased with those faith- 
ful allies who aid him in obtaining it, and will in 
cogosideratito of this assistance be more indulgent 
towards themselves. Each man, therefore, anxious 
for the lighter and more profitable service, will 
take part with God, and will volunteer his eflForts to 
enforce upon all other men that line of conduct most 
agreeable to the divine Being. This spontaneous 
zeal in extorting payment from his brother debtors 
will dispose the creditor to remit or to alleviate his 
own debt. 

But each individual will also be perfectly consci- 
ous that these temptations are equally active in the 
bosoms of his neighbours. They also are upon the 
watch to recommend themselves to God by aveng- 
ing his^ insulted name, and obviating any interrup- 
tions to the leisure and satisfaction of Omnipotence. 
They readily bring forward their terrestrial rein- 
forcements — abuse, hatred, and injury, against any 
individual who forswears his allegiance to the unseen 
sovereign — eulogy and veneration towards him who 
renders it with more than ordinary strictness. Each 
man is thus placed under the surveillance of the rest. 
A strong public antipathy is pointed against impious 
conduct; the decided approbation of the popular 
voice is secured in favour of religious acts. The 
praise or blame of his earthly companions, will thus 
become the real actuating motive to religious observ- 
ances on the part of each individual. By an oppo- 
i^te conduct it i^ not merely the divine denuncia- 
tions that he provokes, but abo the hostility of innu- 
merable crusaders, who long to expiate their own 
debts by implacable warfare against the recusant. 

But although thuis in fact determined to a pious 
behaviour by the esteem and censure of his fellows, 
he will have the highest interest in disguising this 


actual motive, and in pretending to be influenced 
only by genuine veneration for the being whom he 
worships. A religious act, if performed from any 
other than a religious feeling, loses its character of 
exclusive reference to the Deity, and of course 
ceases to be agreeable to him. But if God is no 
longer satisfied with this semi- voluntary performance 
of the service required, neither will the neighbour- 
hood, who take up arms in God's favour, be satisfied 
with it. No individual, therefore, will be able to 
steer clear of the public enmity, unless he not only 
renders these pious acts of homage, but also suc- 
ceeds in convincing others that he is actuated in 
rendering them entirely by the fear of God. The 
popular sanction, therefore, not only enforces the de- 
livery of the homage; It also compels the deliverer 
to carry all the marks of being influenced solely by 
religious inducements, and to pretend that he would 
act precisely in the same manner, whatever might be 
the sentiments of his neighbours. 

The same pretence too will be encouraged by 
other considerations. When a man is once com- 
pelled by some extraneous motive to go through 
the service, it will be his interest to claim all that 
merit in the eyes of God which a spontaneous per- 
formance of it would have insured. He will, there- 
fore, assume all the exterior mien of a voluntary sub- 
jection to the invisible Being, and will endeavour to 
deceive himself into a belief that this is his genuine 
motive. In this self-imposition he will most com- 
monly succeed, and his account of his own conduct, 
originally insincere, will in time be converted into 
unconscious and unintentional error. 

We can now interpret this seeming contrariety 
between the natural impotence and the alleged ap- 
parent dominion, of religious inducements. For the 
real fact is, that they enlist in their service the irre- 
sistible arm of public opiftton- — and that too in a man- 


net which secures to themselves all the credit of 
swaying mankind, while the actually determining 
motive is by general consent suppressed and kept 
out of view. 

Religion is thus enabled to apply^ for the en*^ 
couragement and discouragement of those acts 
which fell within her sphere, the very same engines 
as morality* Moral conduct springs from the mu- 
tual wants and interests of mankind. It is each 
man's interest that his neighbour virtuous; 
Hence each naan knows, that tiie public opinion will 
approve his conduct, if virtuous — reprobate it, if vi- 
cious. Religious acts, indeed, no man has any mo- 
tive to approve from any benefit conferred by the 
actual performance of them ; or, to disapprove the 
oppoi^te behaviour from any injury referable to it. 
But every man has something to gain by being ac- 
tive in enforcing upon others the performance of 
these acts— inasmuch as^ this is a co-operation with 
the views of God, which may have the eflFect of par- 
tially discharging, or at least of lightening, his own 
obligations. The same encouragements and prohibi- 
tion, therefore, which mankind apply to virtue and 
to vice, they will be led to annex, thoug'h from a to- 
tally opposite motive, to pious or impious behavi- 

When the public opinion has once occasioned, as 
it cannot fail to do, a tolerably extensive diffusion of 
5religious practices throughont the community, the 
censures directed against any small remainder of noix- 
confoi'mists will be embittered by the concurrent 
a<;tii>ii of envy. I feel myself constrained to be ri- 
gidly exact in the renewal of my pious offerings: 
Shall my neighbour, who eludes all share in the bur- 
then and will not deduct a moment from his favour- 
ite pursuits for similar purposes, be treated, with the 
same courtesy and respect as myself, who expend so 


much self-denial in order to ensure it? Is not the 
labourer worthy of his hire ? Being myself a scru- 
pulous renderer of these services, it becomes my in- 
terest, even with my fellow-countrymen, to swell 
the merit of performing them, and the criminality of 
neglect, to the highest possible pitch, in order to cre- 
ate a proportionate distribution of their esteem. The 
more deeply I can impress this conviction upon man- 
kind, the greater will be their veneration for me. All 
these principles conspire to sharpen my acrimony 
against my non-conforming neighbour, and render 
me doubly dissatisfied with that state of respite and 
impunity in which Omnipotence still permits him to 
live. In this condition of mind, nothing can be 
more gratifying than the self-assumed task of exe- 
cuting the divine wrath upon his predestined head. 


Proof of the inefficiency of super-human Inducements^ 
when unassisted by^ or at variance tuith, public 

By the preceding analysis I have attempted to 
shew, that the apparent influence of posthumous ex- 
pectations is at the bottom nothing more than a dis- 
guised and peculiar agency of public opinion; and 
also to trace the process by which these expecta- 
tions naturally and infallibly give birth to such an 
inflexion of the popular voice. I now propose to 


confirm this explanation still farther, by citing a few 
most convincing examples of the complete disregard 
with which posthumous anticipations are treated^ 
when the voice of the public either opposes, or 
ceases to enforce, their influence. 

For this purpose it will be absolutely necessary 
to allege instances from revealed religion, because it 
is only by means of revelation that a written, unva- 
rying collection of precepts has become promul- 
gated, completely independent of any variations 
which may take place in the national feeling. In 
natural religion it is impossible to discover what is 
the course of action enjoined, except by consulting 
the reigning tone of practice and sentiment; and, 
therefore, the two must necessarily appear harmo- 
nious and coincident, since we can only infer the 
former from the latter. Revelation alone commu- 
nicates a known and authoritative code, with which 
the actual conduct of believers may be compared,, 
and the points of conformity or separation ascer- 

1. The first practice which may be cited, as ma- 
nifesting the impotence of religious precepts, when 
opposed to public opinion, is that of duelling. No- 
thing can be more notoriously contrary to the di- 
vine law ; which acts too on this occasion with every 
possible advantage, except the alliance of the popular 
voice. For the practice which religion here inter-^ 
diets is attended with pain and hazard tp the person 
committing it, and often with the most ruinous con- 
sequences to his surviving relatives. If ever super- 
human inducements could ensure obedience when 
opposed to the popular sanction, it would be in a 
case where all other motives conspire to aid them. 

If posthumous enjoyments w^re the actual reward 
aimed at, and the real m6tive for religious conduct, 
this concurrence of other inducements would swelF 


their influence and render them preponderant. But 
the truth is, that they are not the actual reward 
sought by the religionist. What he desires is, to 
prove to the satisfaction of other men that they are so — 
to acquire in their eyes the credit of unbounded at- 
tachment to the Deity. No man will give him cre- 
dit for any such attachment, simply because be de- 
clines a duel. He knows that the world will ascribe 
his refusal to cowardice — and thus the concurrence 
of motives abates and enfeebles, instead of confirm- 
ing, the efficacy of the religious precept. He will be 
more ready to inflict upon himself severe bodily suf- 
ferings, in compliance with the divine code, than to 
follow its precepts where mankind will give him no 
credit for the sincerity of his obedience. 

Whether, however, the justice of this solution be 
admitted or denied, the instance of duelling must in 
either case demonstrate the inefficiency of religious 
inducements, when opposed to public opinion. 

2. Fornication is an act direcUy forbidden by the 
super-human code — but not forbidden by the popu- 
lar voice. The latter, however, does not in this case 
imperatively demand the infringement of the prohi- 
bitory precept, as it did in the ca^se of the duel; ,but 
merely leaves the divine admonition to operate un- 
supported. To what extent it operates thus single- 
handed, the state of all great cities notoriously at- 

3. Simony^ again, is forbidden in the religious code 
with equal strictness, and practised with equal fre- 

4. But perhaps the case in which the innpotence 
of posthumous apprehensions is most glaring and 
Inanifest, is that oi perjury. The person who takes 
an oath solemnly calls down upon himself the largest 
measure of divine vengeance, if he commits a parti- 
cular act. In this imprecation it is implied, that he 


firmly anticipates the infliction of these penalties, if 
he becomes guilty of this self-condemned behaviour. 
Yet this expectation, which he. thus attests and pro- 
mulgates, of posthumous inflictions, has not, when 
stript of the consentient impulse of public opinion, 
the slenderest hold upon his actions. It cannot 
make him forego any temptation; however small; 
as an appeal to unexceptionable facts will evince. 
' Every young man, who is entered at the Univer- 
sity of Oxford, is obliged to take an oath, that he 
will observe the statutes of the University — a col- 
lection of rules for his conduct while he is a student, 
framed many years ago by Archbishop Laud. On 
this oath, after it has been once tiaiken, not a thought 
is bestowed, even by the most scrupulous religionist. 
Its precepts are altogether unheteded and forgotten — 
infringed of course on every occasion when the ob- 
servance of them is at all inconvenient. The con- 
duct of all the swearers is precisely the same as it 
would have been had the oath never been taken. 
All the posthumous vengeance which they have im- 
precated upon themselves— all the super-human in- 
flictions which they firmly anticipate — suffice not to 
produce the most trivial alteration of behaviour. 
Yet an adherence to some at least among the injunc- 
tions thus solemnly sealed, would entail scarcely 
any inconvenience at all. Slight, however, as this 
inconvenience is, the fear of post obituary penalties 
is still slighter, and, therefore, ^ven the easy meains 
of averting them ate altogether neglected. 

The regulations prescribed by the oath, it will be 
said, are useless, and, therefore, there is no neces- 
sity for observing them. This may be very true, 
and may afford an unanswerable rekson for discon- 
tinuing the form altogether: But it offers not the 
shadow of a plea for neglecting its dictates, when 
you have once gone through the ceremonial. By 


virtue of the oath you have imposed upon yourself a 
special obligation to the performance of certain acts; 
You bind yourself by your apprehension of posthu- 
mous visitations in case of failure, and in order to 
obviate all reluctance on the part of the Almighty, 
you state your own fervent desire to be so treated, 
whatever obligatory force was comprised in the for- 
mula, can never he impaired by your discovery that 
the act enjoined will produce no beneficial conse- 

The uselessness of these regulations is, indeed, the 
real cause why the oath to fulfil them remains uni- 
versally unobserved. But why? Because the popu- 
lar voice has no longer any interest in enforcing 
them. But the strength of the posthumous fears 
remains unaltered — and the result attests most 
strikingly their debility and nothingness. 

As another confirmation of this doctrine, let us 
remark the conduct of Jurors, when they adminis- 
ter a law which popular opinion, as well as they 
themselves, condemn as sanguinary and impolitic. 
How undisguised is the manner in which they in- 
fringe their oaths in order to elude the necessity of 
passing a capital sentence! In defiance 5f the most 
irresistible testimony, they find a man guilty of 
stealing under the value of forty shillings, and thus 
consign him to the milder and more appropriate 
punishment. Whence comes it that the force of the 
oath, weighty and inflexible up to this point, suddenly 
dissolves into nothing and is shorn of all its credit ? 
It is because the popular voice has ceased to uphold 
it. Public opinion gave, and public opinion has 
taken away; and all the sway, which super-human 
expectations possess over human behaviour, is sur* 
reptitiously procured, from their coincidence with 
this omnipotent sanction. 

Though it is popular opinion, or the desire of tem- 


poral esteem, which forms the actuating stimulus to 
religious observances, yet there are unquestionably 
instances in which such works have been faithfully 
performed without any prospect of consequent cre- 
dit — nay, perhaps, in spite of bitter and predominant 
enmity. This is perfectly conformable to the gene- 
ral analogy of nature. For when the associations 
of credit have once linked themselves with any course 
of behaviour, by conversation with a peculiar class, 
by strong personal affection, or any other cause — 
when the feeling of self-respect has become attached 
to that course — an individual will not unfrequently 
persevere m it, though the harvest which he reaps 
may not actually gratify and realize the association. 
What is the motive which impels the friends of man- 
kind to exert themselves in reforming a bad govern- 
ment? It springs unquestionably from the desire of 
esteem; first the desire of obtaining it, then that of 
deserving it, whether it is actually attainable or not, 
A similar anxiety, for veneration and influence over 
the sentiments of others, possesses the religionist, 
even when he both anticipates and encounters un- 
qualified obloquy; and the fury of proselytism, 
which is inseparable from his tone of feeling, attests 
this beyond all dispute. Even the solitary penance 
of the monk springs ifrom the very same principle; 
for the association of credit, when once deeply im- 
planted, will govern human conduct, though there 
should be no prospect of realizing the hope which 
originally engendered it. 

In addition to this it should be remarked, that no 
one can question the powerful influence exercised by 
super-human inducements, in some , peculiar cases. 
They sometimes produce insanity. But these are 
exceptions to their usual impotence, and cannot be 
admitted as evidence against the general conclusion 
which we have just established. 


As it has been demonstrated that all the eflScaey 
of posthumous inducements is in reality referable to 
their alliance with public opinion — we at once dis- 
cover the weakness of that plea by which these in- 
ducements were asserted to affect secret crimes, un- 
cognizable by human laws. He who entertains con- 
fident hopes of perpetrating a misdeed without 
detection, will of course pay no regard to the popu- 
lar voice. Nor will the fear of future pains, stripped 
of that auxiliary which alone renders it formidable, 
counteract a temptation to delinquency, when we 
see that it cannot prevail upon an Oxford student to 
undergo the smallest inconvenience. That the con- 
duct of the former is guilty and injurious — the neg- 
lect of the latter, innocent — is a distinction which does 
not in the least vitiate the analogy. They are both 
under the special and solitary restraint, whatever be its 
power, which super-human terrors impose. The one 
therefore may serve as an unexceptionable measure 
of the other. Nay, if any thing, these fears ought to 
be more potent and effective in the case of the Oxford 
student, than in that of the secret criminal — inasmuch 
as the former has himself solicited and sanctioned 
theit infliction, and has originated his own claim for 
their fulfilment. 

But if posthumous apprehensions are inapplicable 
for the coercion of secret crime, it cannot be pretend- 
ed that they are ever necessary— -for human enact- 
ments will embrace all ope^ and definable delin- 
quency. To say that earthly laws do not actually 
perform this, is merelv to affirm, that governments 
are defective and ought to be reformed. 


The foregoing search into the nature and action 
of those posthumous expectations which unassisted 


natural religion furnishes, has evinced, I trust 
conclusively : 1 . That in the absence of any au- 
thorised directive rule, the class ,of actions which 
our best fbunded inference would suggest as entitling 
the performer to post-obituary reward, is one not 
merely useless, but strikingly detrimental, to man- 
kind in the present life ; while the class conceived 
as meriting future punishment, is one always inno- 
cuous, often beneficial, to our fellow creatures on 
earth. 2. That from the character and pro- 
perties of posthumous inducements, they infallibly 
become impotent for the purpose of resisting any 
temptation whatever, and efficient only in the pro- 
duction of needless and unprofitable misery. 3. 
That the influence exercised by these induce- 
ments is, in most cases, really derived from the po- 
pular sanction, which they are enabled tp bias and 
enlist in their favour. 

If these conclusions are correct, I think, it can- 
not be denied, that the influence possessed by natu- 
ral religion over human conduct is, with reference to. 
the present life, injurious to an extent incalculably 
greater than it is beneficial. For if it ever does pro- 
duce benefit, this must be owing to casual and pe- 
culiar associations in the minds of some few believers, 
who form an exception to the larger body. It is by 
no means my design to question the existence of 
some persons thus happily bom or endowed. But 
it would be most unsafe and perilous to build our 
general doctrine on a few such instances of rare me- 
rit: We can only determine the general operation 
of these inducements, or the effect which they pro- 
duce on the greatest number of minds, by analysing 
their nature and properties, and by contemplating 
the result which these properties bring about in 
other known cases. This is what has been here at- 
tempted, and the inquiry has demonstrated that the 


^geitcy of snper^humiin motives must in the larger 
aggregate of instances, produce effects decidedly 
pernicious to earthly happitiess. 

Having thus ascertained that the general influence 

, of unaided natural religion is mischievous, with, te-^ 

ference to the present life, I shall now proceed to 

expose the mischief more in detail, — to particularize 

Mtd classify its various forms. * 



In enunderating the Various modes in which posthu- 
hlotis expeptations^, when unaided by rievelation, are 
prb(Iti6|:ive qf injury, it will be expedient to clas- 
sify them tinder twQ heads : 

1. Mischiefs accruing to an individual, sepa- 
rately considered. 

2. Mischiefs not merely self-affecting, but conta- 
gious — diffusing themselves more or less widely 
throughout the society. ' 



Of the mischiefs accruing to the IndividuaL 

Mischief I. — Inflicting unprofitable 


There is an interminable variety in the particulari- 
ties which characterize natural religion, amongst dif- 
ferent nations of the globe. But its genuine spirit 
and tone is throughout the same, yesterday, to-day, 
and for ever; The same motive pervades all its vo- 
taries, whether in Hindostan or Mexico; and though 
it may impel them with greater strength and sove- 
reignty in one climate or age, than in another, yet 
there is not the smallest difficulty in tracing its 
identity every where. 

You wish to give proof of your attachment to the 
Deity, in the eyes and for the conviction of your fel- 
low-men? . There is but one species of testimony 
which will satisfy their minds. You must impose 
upon yourself pain for his sake; and in order to si- 
lence all suspicion as to the nature of the motive, the 
pain must be such as not to present the remotest 
prospect of any independent reward. I have al- 
ready attempted to shew, that this condition effec- 
tually excludes, and renders improper for the pur- 
pose, all suffering endured for the benefit of mankind. 
Mankind will measure your devotion to God by the 
amount and intensity of the pain which you thus 
gratuitously inflict upon yourself. Accordingly we 


See, that wherever the religious principle has been 
most predominant, and the counteracting hand of 
reason the most feeble, the mass of torture thus vo- 
luntarily imposed has been the most deplorable, re- 
volting, and unprofitable. 

Almost all the modes of pain, both physical a!nd 
mental, seem to have been selected at different places 
and periods, for the purpose of demonstrating the 
magnitude and sincerity of the extra-human affec- 

Mischief II, — Imposing useless privations* 

It is by endurance of voluntary pain that a man 
can most invincibly attest his devotion to the Deity. 
But there seems to have been a gradual declension 
of genuine and fervid piety in many countries, or at 
least its intensity has frequently fallen short of this 
first-rate excellence. In this state of comparative 
relaxation^ it suffices only to enforce upon its vota- 
ries the greater or less immolation of earthly plea- 
sures, without being strong enough to produce gra- 
tuitous self-tqrture. Public opinion, less impas- 
sioned and less exciteable on behalf of the Deity, 
will not reimburse the sufferer for the endurance of 
stripes and mutilation. The motive to the latter be- 
ing thus withdrawn, he contents himself with colder 
and more moderate testimonies of devotion. He 
claims the public esteem for a voluntary resignation 
of all his earthly pleasures for the sake of God. To 
impress this conviction in the minds of his neigh- 
bours, it is necessary that his self-denigl should be 
above all imputation of temporal recompence — and 
therefore that it should be productive oi little or no 
benefit to any beside the Deity. 
, Of all the sources of pleasure, physical and mental, 
few can be named which have not thus become, in a. 


greater or less degree, objects of renunciation and ab- 
horrence. The following acts of self-denial have all, 
on different occasions, been placed in the catalogue 
of religious practices : 

1. Fasting. 

2. Celibacy. 

3. Abstinence from repose. 

4. Abstinence from cleanliness, personal decoration, and inno- 
cent comforts. ^ . 

5. Abstinence from social enjoyments and mirth. 

6. Abstinence from remedies to disease. 

7. Gratuitous surrender of property, time and labour. 

8. Surrender of dignity and honours. 

It is unnecessary to remark that noae of these pri- 
vations inflict that acute and immediate agony, which 
results from the toirtures before enumerated. Some 
of them, perhaps, may upon the long run occasion 
a larger aggregate of suffering, from their couBtaat 
pressure and irritation. But I think it most im- 
portant to notice, that out of the whole diminution 
of human happiness, which natural religioQ origi- 
nates, these intense self-infHctions constitute a por- 
tion almost anfinitply sniall, whea compared with 
that spreading system of privation and self-denial, 
which lays whole societies under contributioni Like 
a vicious government, the amount of its noxious ef- 
fects ought to be estimated by the standing sacri- 
fices which it extorts from the milium, and which, 
thoiigh not strikingly oppressive in any ihdividual 
case, swell into an unfathomable mass when multi- 
plied into the countless host upon whom they are 
levied — not from the comparatively ^re occurrences 
of concentrated horror and atrocity. 

For public opinion, which memly encourages and 
provokes, by excessive admiration, the voluntary 
tortures of the enthusiast, acts as a compulsory fdrce 
in extorting self-denial and ^asceticism. How it ori- 


gitially comes to demand and enforce these sacrifices^ 
how each individual finds himself interested in exact-^ 
ing them from others, arid thence obliged to pay them 
himself — I have attempted to elucidate in the fore- 
going part. The reason why the privations are thus re- 
quired by the popular voice, while the self-inflictions 
are left optional, is because the earliest and most na- 
tural mode which occurs for conciliating the unseen 
6iisanthrope, is to consign, to his use some gratifying 
and valuable possession. A man des{>oils himself 
of some piece of property, and bestows it to satisfy 
thiB wants of his Deity: The Ostiak, according to 
Pelll6is; takes a quantity of meat and places it be- 
tween the lips of his idol — other nations present 
drink to. the Gods by throwing it out of the cup upon 
the ground ; that is, by rendering it useless to any 
h«unan being. It is these donatives, or acts of pri- 
vation, which are originally conceived as recommend- 
ing the performer to divine favour. Sacrifices of 
other sortis are subsequently super-added — and ab- 
stinences firom certain enjoymefits, on the plea of 
consecrating them to the Deity. Hence the public 
opinion is at the outset warmly enlisted in exacting 
self-denying performances for his benefit-^a tone of 
thought industriously cherished by his ministers, as 
I shsdl hereafter explain*. 

* Self imposed torture seems to be a subsequent refinement, de- 
,Tised by poor men who had no property to make donations, and 
whose time cannot be spared from the task of providing subsist- 
ence. In order to gain. a living, as well as to make good his claim 
to the public admiration, the naked enthusiast must give manifes- 
tations of internal feeling which may strike the beholder with awe. 
But utter destitution admits of no farther self-denial, and can ele- 
vate itself above others only by insensibility to pain, which appears 
to place it beyond the reach of human menaces. Hence the incre- 
dible Bufferings which have been voluntarily endured by monks 
and fakirs, and the prodigious veneration which, among ignorant 
nations, they have seldom failed to inspire — a veneration which has 
doubtless on some occasions caused them to be practised even by 
the rich. 

' 72 

These considerations will serve to explain how the 
popular opinion has come to compel imperiously a 
certain measure of self-denial and privation, while it 
abandons self-inflicted penance to the kindlings of 
spontaneous enthusiasm. 

Mischief III. — impressing ui^defined terrors. 

In treating generally of the efficacy of these post- 
humous anticipations in the character of sanctions, 
I have already indicated the mode in which they 
kindle up, on certain occasions, the most terrific 
feelings of which the human bosom is susceptible. 
Their operation is indeed most afflicting, in this 
point of view ; it is always most cruelly preponderant 
upon those unhappy subjects whose title to exemp- 
tion is the greatest — upon those who are already 
broken down by sickness and despondency — upon 
those whose only point of distinction from their 
neighbours is the actual calamity under which they 
suffer. This.unfortunate cas^ualty shatters the nervous 
system, enfeebles the judgment, and lays open the 
victim to the incursions of imaginary terrors, the ex- 
tent and reality of which he cannot measure. The 
force, which religion thus casts into the already over- 
poised scale of misery, may be best appreciated by 
stating, that it frequently drives the sufferer into 
insanity. It augments also most fatally the horrors 
which usually environ the prospect of death. 

But I need not again repeat what has been be- 
fore urged, that these anticipations redouble their 
severity precisely at the time when no benefit can 
possibly result from it. They slumber during the 
period of health and comfort; they await the ap- 
pearance of sorrow and disaster before they can ob- 
tain a congenial atmosphere. The mass of suffering 
which they thus occasion to almost every one, at 
different times of life, must be very considerable. 


There is no one who has not been occasionally as- 
sailed by illness, and by the despondency which ge- 
nerally attends it, and few, therefore, into whose mind 
posthumous fears do not at times find admission, 
with more or less effect. We are warranted then 
in assuming the aggregate of misery introduced 
by them in this shape, as highly important in 
amcmnt. That almost all persons, in whom religion 
is deeply and fervently implanted, are much harra$fi- 
ed by these distressing apprehensions, may be as^ert^ 
ed with confidence* But it is seldcnn tlikt we can 
obtain a testimony at once so striking and authentic, 
of tfa^r power and extent, as the following account 
of the Spanish monasteries — written by a philoso- 
phical Spanish clergyman, and contained in a most 
eloquent and interesting woA entitled ** Don Leu- 
cadio Dobkdo's Letters from Spain" — (London. 

i82a> . ' ^ 

^' The common source qf sufferinig (says this au- 
thor p. 252,) among the Catholic recluses, proceeds 
from a certain degree of religious melancholy, which, 
combined with such complaints as originate in per- 
petual confinement, affect more or less the greater 
number. The mental disease to which I allude, is 
commonly known by the name of Escrupulos, and 
might be called religious anxiety. It is the natural 
state of a mind perpetually dwelling on hopes connected 
with an inmsibls worldy ^nd an^viaasly practising means 
ti^ avoid an unhappy lot in it, which keep the apprehend- 
td dmger for ever present to the imagination. Consre- 
erationfor life at the altar promises, it is true^ in- 
oreased happiness in the world to come*^ but the 
Biimi^ous and difficult dutifes attached to the religious 
profession, niultiply the hazards of eternal misery 
with the chances of failure in their performance, and 
. while the plain Christianas offences againirt the moral 
-law are often coi^dered as mere frailties, thoee of 



the professed votary seldom escape the aggravation 
of sacrilege. The odious diligence of the Catholic 
moralists has raked together an endless catalogue of 
sins, by thought, word, anddeedy to every one of which 
the punishment of eternal flames has been assigned. 
This list, alike horrible and disgusting, haunts the 
imagination of the unfortunate devotee, till reduced 
to a state of perpetual anxiety, she can neither think, 
speak, nor act, without discovering in eV^ery vital 
motion a sin which invalidates all her past sacrifices, 
and dooms her painful efforts after Christian perfec- 
tion to end in everlasting misery. Absolution, which 
adds boldness to the resolute and profligate, becomes 
a fresh source of disquietude to a timid and sickly 
mind. Doubts innumerable disturb the unhappy 
sufferer, not.however as to the power of the priest 
in granting pardon but respecting her own fulfilment 
'of the conditions, without which to receive pardon 
is sacrilege. These agonizing fears, cherished and 
fed by the small circle of objects to which a nun is 
confined, are generally incurable, and usually terminate 
in an untimely death or insanity.'' 

Mischief IV. — Taxing pleasure, by the in- 
fusion, OF preliminary scruples, and subse- 
quent REMORSE. 

Among the mischievous effects of religion in the 
present life, it is necessary to advert to those cases 
where the innocuous pleasure, which it proscribes, is 
still, in defiance of the mandate, enjoyed. In these 
circumstances its effect is not so great as absolutely 
to discard the pleasure, but only to4ctmp and darken 
it; partly by introducing a previous doubt or oppo- 
sition of motives; partly by obtruding,, when the 
vehemence of the conquering passions has subsided^ 
a mixture of shame and regret oftentimes insupport- 


ably bitter. Though religion thus does not entirely 
preclude pur enjoyment, yet she compels us to 
purchase it by unhappiness both antecedent and 


Of the Mischiefs which Natural Religion occasions , not 
only to the Believer himself but also to others through 
his means. 

Mischief I. — Creating factitious antipathy. 

The preparation in the human bosom for antipathy 
towards other men is, under all circumstances, most 
unhappily copioiis and active. The boundless range 
of human desires, and the very limited number of 
objects adapted to satisfy them, unavoidably leads a 
man to consider those with whom he is obliged to share 
such objects, as inconvenient rivals wl^o narrow his 
own extent of enjoyment. Besides, human beings 
are the most powerful instruments of production, 
and therefore every one becomes anxious to employ 
the services of his fellows in multiplying his own 
comforts. Hence the intense and universal thirst 
for power; the equally prevalent hatred of subjec- 
tion. Each man therefore meets Ivith an obstinate 
resistance to his own will, and is obliged to make an 
equally constant opposition to that of others, and 
this naturally engenders antipathy towards the beings 
who thus baffle and contravene his wishes. 

Religion becomes a powerful coadjutor to these 


predisposing causes. AlmoiBt ail her influence^ as 
we have before explained, is derived from the sys- 
tem of rivalry and mutual compulsion which she in- 
troduces among mankind — each man recammending 
himself to the divine favour, by extorting from others 
the sacrifice of their inclinations on behalf of God. 
Hence arises an immense extension of the principle 
of antipathy; a number of factitious instances are 
created and subjected to its controul, where it had 
before no application; and every fresh case of colli- 
sion swells and aggravates the ill-will which sprung 
from the previous sources. 

Those artificial antipathies, which are the peculiar 
growth and fruit of religion, assume a variety of 
shapes, and ramify widely throughout the field of 
human actions. The principal circumstances on 
which they fasten are reducible to these three; 

1 . Unbelief in the existence of the Deity. 

2. Non-observance of his wilL 

3. Mal-observance of his will. 

1. Of all human antipathies, that which the be*- 
liever in a God bears to the unbeliever is the fullest^ 
the most unqualified, and the most universal. All 
considerations and feelings conspire to aggravate it; 
scarcely a thought suggests itself in mitigation of an 
offence so heinous. First, the mere circumstance of 
dissent, involving a tacit imputation of error and in- 
capacity, and evincing that our persuasive power u 
not rated so highly by others as it is by ourselves^ 
invariably begets dislike towards our antagonists 
By attempting to demonstrate that we are in error, 
he robs us in part of our influence and credit with 
mankind, from which we should have reaped many 
advantages had our doctrines remained uncnallekiged. 
Secondly, the feeling of hostility which the believer 
entertains towards the unbeliever, on the score of 
dissent, is incalculably more acute than that which 


the latter generally imbibes against him . For an ex- 
cessive and inconsiderate crcriulity is indicative of a 
fisir weaker cast of mind than over-caution and incredu- 
lity. The former lays its possessor open to unceasing 
miscalculation and deception : the latter is on nume- 
rous occasions an entire preservative— scarcely ever 
a cause of suffering or of loss. Hence to him who 
takes the negative side of a question^ the believer in 
the affirmative is more the object of contempt than 
of hatred, being regarded as simple, uninquiring, 
and easily duped or misled. Ridicule is the weapon 
which the unbeliever is most disposed to employ. 
On the other hand, the believer knows perfectly the 
Ifght of inferiority in which his antagonist views him : 
and to be considered by others as silly and contemp- 
tible, occasions the most poignant and intolera- 
ble vexation, since the diffusion of this sentiment 
would altogether bereave us of the attention and 
favour of mankind, which is never conferred on those 
who are too feeble to deserve or repay it. Now 
the unbeliever is of course interested, like every 
other man, in spreading his own opinions, and will 
attempt this wherever it is practicable. We need 
not wonder therefore, that the believer manifests 
the bitterest aversion towards one who is endeavour- 
ing to impress mankind with the meanest estimate 
of his judgment and penetration. 

All the strong passions of humanity are thus let 
loose against the unbeliever, and coincide perfectly 
with our anxiety to vindicate the divine majesty, by 
protecting it from neglect or insult on the part of 
any one else. The antipathy therefore is in this 
case swelled to the utmost pitch of intensity, nor is 
there a single consideration which can tend to repress 
or mitigate it. It dictates and furnishes a pretence 
for the gratification of an existing wish: it requires 
no troublesome subjugation of propensities, no ifeur- 
i^nder of actual enjoyments. It does not pledge 

^ 78 

the believer to any painful observslnces, in order to 
ensure consistency between his sentiments and his 
conduct. He who neglects altogether the more 
costly modes of purchasing posthumous promotion, 
will be so much the more interested in magnifying 
the importance of belief and the heinousness of its 
opposite — because it is the only payment which he 
finds leisure to render. He must therefore represent 
it as so genuine and fervent, as to compensate the 
omission of other less easj services. But while he 
remains thus inactive, the only symptom by which 
the intensity of his belief can be appreciated, is the 
strength of his hostility towards the sceptic. Sen- 
timents and acts of antipathy are thus the only 
proofs of allegiance whidh he can adduce, to place 
him on a level with the more scrupulous adherent. 
The hatred of the latter is of course ensured towards 
a disbelief, which woul^ fain reduce his pious sacri- 
fices to the level of ridiculous self-denial. 

By all these conspiring paotivtes the antipathy 
against atheists is engendered and provoked. Its 
diffusion too is most universal ; fgr it is the single 
feeling in which the votaries of all systems of natural 
religion coincide, and direct their enmity to one com- 
mon subject. 

2. The antipathy against non-observance is infe- 
rior; both in extent and in vehemence, to that 
against unbelief. There is not the same array of feel- 
ings to stimulate it. First, the dissent is by no 
means so wide and radical as in the former case — 
indeed in many instances the difference of conduct 
may involve scarcely any variance of opinion at all, 
but is referable to the superior presence and urgency 
of human motives, which govern the actions of the 
believer, in defiance of his entire conviction that he 
is thereby forfeiting his chance of posthumous hap- 
piness. There is too, a greater hope of procuring 
conformity from the non-observant believer, than of 


planting the root of persuasion in the atheist. The 
former recognises the same sovereignty and is en- 
listed in the same ranks: It seems only requisite to 
sound the word of command more loudly and im- 
pressively in his ears, in order to enforce the course 
of action which such an acknowledgement appears 
to entail. And the active religionist possesses ample 
means of thus disturbing and awakening a mind which 
suffers his fundamental principles to pasSi unques- 
tioned. Whereas the atheist is deaf to these sono- 
rous and impassioned appeals; and must be won by 
the cool and measured advances of reason. Se- 
condly, the observant believer does not feel himself 
to be an object of contempt with the non-observant. 
The latter ip even interested in admiring and eulo- 
gizing acts of devotion which he will not imitate, 
since by this encouragement to the worship of others, 
he lightens the criminality of his own neglect. 

For these and other reasons, the antipathy which 
religion generates Against non-observance, is far 
from being so virulent as that against unbelief. In- 
deed, unbelief necessarily implies entire non-observ- 
ance, with scarcely any prospect of future amend- 
ment. While almost every believer is occasionally 
and to some extent obedient in practice, or at least 
recognizes the propriety of being so at a subsequent 

Notwithstanding, however, this comparative de- 
duction, there still remains a very strong enmity to- 
wards non-observance, whether in the way of ne- 
glect or of trespass. Ascetics, reposing their title to 
the esteem of mankind on a voluntary abnegation of 
particular enjoyments, naturally endeavour to fasten 
obloquy on all who indulge in them ; Of course the 
ascetics hate him whom their interest leads them 
thus to injure. Besides, there exists in their minds, 
(though on most occasions perhaps unknown to 
themselves) a secret apprehension that their uncom* 


plying neighbour may at last prove correct ia his 
calculation^ and that all their own self-denial may 
be thrown away. Yet it is a risk which they 
themselves do not choose to brave; and they, there- 
fore, would fain deter any one else from undertake 
ing it. Both vexation and envy thus impel them to 
eidbrce this prohibition in the most effectual manner 
— that is by forestalling the post-obituary sentence, 
and encompassing the path of self-iodulgence with 
all the evils which earthly abuse and hostility can 
devise. Tlieir own mistrust of the result is evinced 
by their reluctance to allow to the sinner the unmo- 
lested prc^t or loss of his own temerity. 

3. The third species of antipathy which remains 
to be noticed, is that upon the score^of mal-ob- 
servance — a feeling more virulent than the second 
species, though less so than the first. In proportion 
to the stress we lay upon our mode of serving and 
obeying the Deity, will be the abhorrence with 
which we regard any rival system of worship. The 
ritual enjoined by the latter appears in our eyes a 
perversion of holy ordinances joad institutions — fre- 
quently indeed we view it as the most flagrant im- 
piety. We have ourselvea always beea taught to 
venerate a certain class of practices, as strictly 
agreeable to the Deity: But here is another nation 
who lay claim to his favour by very opposite per- 
formances, and mere natural rdigion unhappily fur- 
nishes us with no rational ground for preferring our 
ovm. Thus deficient in reasons, we naturally en- 
deavour to deter people firMn demanding any, w 
even from whispering doubts vrhich might call for a 
solution . Dogmatical assumption of our own teuicts ; 
the bitterest invective against all who question them; 
ti^e are the expedients which have been universally 
employed for this purpose. The first secures to the 
doctrinel^e only support which circumstances admit, 
that iSy our own authority, detited from the ci^edit 


we havB acquired in other cases for judgment and 
penetration: The second terrifies the hearer from 
manifesting any difficulty of assent, by which he 
might himself incur the suspicion of partiality to- 
wards, the enemies of our worship. 

It thus appears that to him who entertains a 
strong conviction, for which he h^^s little or no argu- 
ments to offer, an intense antipathy not only clings 
as the natural concomitant of dissent, but is even 
nece^ssary as a weapon to intimidate unsatisfied hear- 
ers, and to stifle an enquiry which it would be dif- 
ficult to ward off in any other manner* Unprepared 
for parley, he quickly resorts to that heavy artillery 
on which alone his reliance can be placed. Besides, 
the want of solid proof generates, in this case also> 
the same mistrust and apprehension of error as we 
have remarked in the former — and hence an equal 
aversion and hostility towards all men, who ,by 
adopting a different course of worship, excite these 
doubts in his mind. 

The Pagan, who has from his earliest youth re* 
garded his own ritual as exclusively. conformable to 
the divine will, is disposed to imagine that the Hin- 
doo, or any other nation whose religious practices 
are widely, different, must be a candidate for the fa- 
vour of soiri^ unseen Being distinct from the one 
whom he himself recognises. Natural religion can- 
not demonstrate to him that there is no more than 
o«e God; and it would be presumptuous in him to 
assume it without proof. It is natural, therefore, 
that he should regard the foreign votary as the ser- 
taht of a different God. But to see his own Deity 
not only neglected, but forsaken in behalf of another, 
is exasperating in the extreme ; since it sets a limit 
to the influence of the former, and brings forward a 
rival ' sovereignty, from which a different distribu- 
tion of favour and displeasure is to be expected. 
To attest, thei^efore, the rectitude of his own choice 
12 . 


and the superior might of his own Deity, he musters 
under the divine banners all the temporal force 
which he himself can command, for the purpo^ of 
crushing the rival worshippers, and terminating the 
influence of the unseen Being on whom they- rely. 

Mal-observance, like unbelief, includes non-ob- 
servance ; For the votary of a different system of re- 
ligion will of course altogether neglect the cer<emo- 
nies which I consider as the peculiar privilege of 
mine. But besides this, he braves my opinions, and 
heaps all the terms of moral reprobation on those 
practices which have always appeared to me the holi- 
est and most essential : And there is scarcely a pros- 
pect of persuading him to adopt a conduct agreeable 
to my views, since we entertain so few common 
principles. It is natural, therefore, that I should 
detest him far more warmly than a simply remiss 
and disobedient fellow-believer. 

Such is the antipathy which religion sows in the 
human bosom — and such are the principal shapes 
and varieties which it assumes. It is unhappily 
but too notorious, how fruitful this factitious hosti- 
lity has proved in every species of destructive and 
sanguinary result. If we merely contemplate the 
fierce and merciless persecutions whose enormity 
has obtruded them upon the view of the historian, 
the misery thus introduced will appear sufficiently 
atrocious and revolting. But it is not by these ex- 
treme barbarities that the largest aggregate of suffw- 
ing is occasioned. Very shockiiig instances of cru- 
elty must be comparatively rare, firom the despera- 
tion and inextinguishable thirst of vengeance which 
they are sure to provoke; and they are rather to be 
viewed as indicating the pitch of fury to which the 
antipathy will occasionally stimulate nuauikijid, than 
as aiding our measurement of its evil effects. These 
are to be estimated by computing the degree to which 
it is current and universal — the average force with 


which it acts at all times upon the bulk of the com- 
munity. The very same principles, which at times 
breaks out into such ferocious excesses, is eternally 
at work, provoking innumerable manifestations of 
lesser hostility and Ul-will — and these acts, although 
less injurious when individually considered, yet 
abundantly compensate this defect by their ceaseless 
recurrence and ubiquity. 

It is not easy to estimate the total sum of evil in- 
troduced by this means — but when we contemplate 
the universal prevalence of religious hatred, and its 
daily and hourly interference with the line of human 
conduct— creating factitious motives for inflicting 
mutual evil, or withholding* assistance — ^we shall be 
authorised in placing to its Account no inconsidera- 
ble portion of the misery which pervades human so- 
ciety. The notorious and extensive influence of this 
antipathy is no where more forcibly marked than in 
the arguments concerning toleration. It is only 
within the last century, or a little before, that philo-^ 
sophy has ventured to broach the doctrine of tolera^ 
tion — that is, to recommend the propriety of tolerat- 
ing, or enduring^ the existence of persons entertain- 
ing different religious sentiments. Previous to this 
the understood principle, as well as practice, ap- 
pears to have been, that no one could be expected 
to endure persons dissenting from him on religious 
subjects. Intolerance was then the universally ac- 
knowledged credential of sincerity, and, indeed, still 
remains so, wherever the preponderance of any one 
pious fraternity is so comp|:ete, as to render this non- 
endurance of dissenters at all practicable. It is 
chiefly the growing equilibrium between different 
sects which has engendered this mutual suspension 
of arms, and mitigated the fury of religious antipa- 


Mischief II. — Perverting the popular opi- 
nion — corrupting moral sentiment-^sanc- 

tifying antipathy productng aversion to 


To ensure oa the part of every individual a prefe- 
rence of actions favourable to the .happiness of the 
community, it is essentietlly requisite that that com- 
munity should themselves be able to recognise what 
is conducive to their happiness — that they should 
manifest a judgment sufficiently precise and un- 
tainted to separate virtue from vice. The reason 
why the popular sanction is generally mentioned as 
an encouragement to good and a restraint upon bad 
conduct, is, because the major part of the society are 
supppsed in most cases to know what benefits and 
what injures them — ^and that they are disposed to 
love and recompense the former behaviour, to hate 
and punish the latter. Now the efficacy of the pub^ 
lie hate^ considered as a restraint upon mis-deeds, 
depends upon its being constantly and exclusively 
allied with the real injury of the public — ^upon its 
being imiformly called forth whenever their happi- 
ness is endangered, and never upon any mistaken or 
imaginary alarms. Whatever, therefore, tends to 
make men hate that which does not actually hurt 
them, contributes to distort or disarm public opinion, 
in its capacity of a restraint upon injurious acts— for 
the public sentiment is only the love or hatred of all 
or most of the individuals in the society. 

Now religion has been shewn to create a number 
of factitious antipathies — that is, to make men hate 
a number of practices which they would not have 
hated had their views been confined simply to the 
present life. But if men would not naturally have 
hated these practices, this is a proof that they are 
not actually hurtful. Religion, therefore, attaches 

85 . 

the hatred of mankind to actions not really injurious 
to them, and thus seduces it from its only legitimate 
and valuable function, that of deterring individuals 
from injurious^ conduct. 

By this distortion from its true purpose, the effi- 
cacy of the popular censure is also weakened on 
those occasions when it is most beneficially and in- 
dispensibly called for, as a guardian of human happi- 
ness. It is dissipated over an unnecessary extent of 
defensible ground, and thus becomes less efficient at 
eyery particular point; And it is deprived of that 
unity of design, and that reference to a distinct and 
assignable end, which marks all provisions exclu- 
sively destined for securing the public happiness. 
The different actions, to which the public odium is 
attached, appear entirely unconnected and heteroge- 
neous iti their tendencies, and its application is thus 
involved in darkness and confusion. 

Besides, hatred from one man towards another, is 
a feeling decidedly noxious, and no friend of huma- 
nity qbuld suffer a single drop of it to exist, were it 
not required to prevent a greater evil— to obviate a 
still larger destruction of happiness. Unless sancti- 
fied by this warrant, the affection of hatred becomes 
nothing better than unredeemed malignity, It is by 
exciting and keeping alive this malignity, that reli- 
gion enforces her causeless prohibitions; and, there- 
fore her influence is injurious, not only by obstruct- 
ing an innocuous gratification, but by all the malice 
and animosity which she plants in the human bosom 
in order to efffect her purpose. A pernicious re- 
striction is thus completed by still more pernicious 

Though this is the most mischievous species of 
corruption with which the popular opinion can be 
infected, it is not, however, the only one. Its en- 
couragements, as well as its restraints, may be se- 
duced and mis-applied. To promote its true aim. 


the public favour and esteem ought to be as insepa- 
rably and exclusively annexed to beneficial practices, 
as its hatred to acts of a contrary tendency. But 
religion never fails to conciliate a very^ material share 
of credit for practices, which, however meritorious 
with reference to a posthumous state, cannot be af 
firmed to produce any temporal advantage, and 
therefore would never have been esteemed had our 
views been confined to the present life. She thus 
draws off a portion of the popular favour, from its 
legitimate task of encouraging acts conducive to 
human felicity : She cheats the public into the offer 
of a reward for conduct alwavs useless, sometimes 
injurious — and embezzles part of the fund consecrated 
to the national service, for bribery on the personal 
behalf of the monarch. 

The popular sanction, thus mis-applied both in its 
encouraging and restrictive branches, may become 
the unconscious instrument of evil to almost any ex- 
tent. It may criminate and interdict any number of 
innocent enjoyments, like the eating of pork — or any 
acts however extensively useful, like loans of money 
upon interest. And it may heap profuse veneration 
on monastic stripes and self-denial, or ratify the 
cruelty which persecution inflicts upon the unhappy 

But the public never praise an action without 
thinking it to deserve praise, nor blame one without 
believing it to deserve blame. This mis-direction, 
therefore, of praise and blame naturally and necessa- 
rily introduces a false apprehension of what is praise- 
worthy and blame-worthy. The practices thus er- 
roneously imagined to merit their esteem become 
enrolled in the catalogue of virtues — those falsely 
conceived to merit their censure are represented as 
vices. Thus the terms of moral approbation and 
blame are deceitfully transferred to actions which a 
regard to the public happiness would not legitiqiate. 


and the science of morality is cast into utter dark- 
ness and embarrassment, by the removal of that 
light which an unity of standard could alone have 

This misapplication of terms is farther confirmed 
by the language used in addressing or characteris- 
ing the Deity. We have already shewn that the 
Almighty, though always actually conceived by 
natural religion as a capricious despot, is yet never 
described except in epithets of the most superlative 
and unmingled praise. The practices, which he is 
supposed to* approve or delight in, will of course be 
characterised in language the same as that which is 
applied to himself. What he loves, will be laudable 
or virtuous — what he dislikes, blameable or vicious. 
To sacrifice the life of a human being becomes thus 
entitled to the name of a good action, when enjoined 
(or supposed to be enjoined) by the Being whom 
every one calls all-beneficent and perfect. It mat- 
ters not what the action is — so it be agreeable to the 
just and good Creator, it must itself be necessarily 
just and good. 

By these two concurrent causes, the science of 
morality has been enveloped in a cloud of per- 
plexity and confusion. Philosophers profess, by 
means of this science, to interpret and to reconcile 
the various applications of approving and disapprov- 
ing terms. But the practices on which the same epi- 
thet of approbation is bestowed, appear so incurably 
opposite, that it has been found impossible to reduce 
them to one common principle, or to discover any 
constituent quality which universally attracts either 
praise or blame. The intellect has been completely 
bewildered and baffled in all attempts to explain the 
foundation of morality, or to find any unerring finger- 
post amidst a variety of diverging paths. 

Hence the same misdirection of eulogy and cen- 
sure, by which, mankind have been deluded into 

88 . 

favouring those who did them harm, and persecuting 
their benefactors, has given birth besides to another 
unhappy effect. The science of morality has 
become so doubtful and embarrassed, so des- 
titute of all centre and foundation, as to lose all 
authority, and to be incapable either of rectifying 
current niistakes, or guarding against future ones; 
By the depravation of this all important science, 
therefore, these misdirections not only secure them- 
selves from all trial or scrutiny, but also ensure a 
similar success and immunity to any future preju- 
dices. For the moralist, comparing the various ac- 
tions to which praise Or blame is awarded, and find- 
ing not the smallest analogy either in their nature 
or tendency, some being beneficial, others hurtful, 
others indifferent — is* unable to range them under 
any common exponent, and accordingly sets them 
down in a catalogue one after another, as distinct 
and heterogeneous dictates of a certain blind and 
unaccountable impulse, which he terms a moral in* 
stinct or conscience. In cases where all men agree in 
approving or disapproving the same practice, he 
appeals to this universal consent as an invincible 
testimony to the justice of the feeling, and extols 
the uniformity of nature's voice: in cases where they 
differ, he compliments the particular sect or public, 
for whom he writes, as having singly adhered to the 
path of right and the dictates of nature, and bastard- 
izes the rest of mankind as an outcast and misguided 
race. * 

The science of morality having been thus degrad-^ 
ed into a mere catalogue of the reigning sentiments^ 
without any trial or warrant, not only do the preju- 
dices of to*day meet with adoption and licence, but 
a sanctuary is also provided fqr those of to-morrow. 
Morality cannot, in this state, either instruct or 
amend mankind, nor is it capable of progress or im- 
provement, because the standard, by which alone 


its advance can be measured, has been cast away. 
To this stagnant and useles^s condition it has been 
reduced by the excessive misapplications of praise 
and hiame, which religion has to so large an extent 
occasioned, though other causes have doubtless con- 
tributed to the same end. 

We should not omit to remark, that as all means 
of distingjiishing right fron^ wrong disapprobation i&^ 
obliterated, every one naturally endeavours to licence 
and sanctify bis own private antipathies, by placing 
them to the account of religion. By an artful trans- 
fer of terms, he attempts to slip his personal dislike 
into the moral code, and to found thereon the charac- 
ter of being zealously concerned for the honour of 
God and the interests of virtue. If he can succeed in 
proearing a few allies, his antipathy becomes gradu- 
ally diffused and legalised, and is worshipped as a 
dictate of the moral sense. But in order to obtain 
these partisans, he is compelled to offer some service 
in return; and for this purpose he naturally stands 
fofth as the champion of their antipathies, in the 
same manner as they second his. By this compro^ 
mise, therefore, the whole band are leagued to. en* 
dorse and accredit each others enmities, and to vilify 
th^ actions which they dislike, as infringements of re- 
ligion and of the law of nature. The less hurtfull the 
action — ^tbe less real necessity can be alleged for the 
dislike— the more loudly will they be obliged to ap- 
peal to religion and the moral instinct, as their only 
chance of shelter from the charge of absurd peculi- 
arity. Those antipathies, therefore, which are the 
least defensiWe on the score of public utility, are the 
most commonly put forward to be stamped and 
sanctified by religion, and to pass current under the 
denomination of laws of nature. 

One consequence and manifestation of this princi- 
ple is so important as to deserve particular notice. 
An aversion towards improvement is its decided 


eflFect — and where su.cli a feeling previously existed, 
it is both aggravated in fbrbe, and hardened against 
all question and scrutiny. 

The sequences and concatenation of phenomena, 
as. presented to our senses, and subsequently com- 
pared and classified, form what is called the course 
of nature, supposed to be established by the Deity. 
AH fresh facts, all acquisition and application of know- 
ledge, introduce a change in these sequences, and 
therefore break in upon the laws of nature. 

Now the laws of nature, conceived as they are to 
be the arrangements of the Deity, acquire a charac- 
ter of supreme holiness, and to infringe them is sup- 
posed to be an impious defeat and counteraction of 
the divine will. The same being, indeed, who ori- 
ginally set them on foot, may suspend or over-rule 
them, if he will; But any interference for this pur- 
pose, on the part of man, is presumptuous and un- 
warrantable in the highest degree. To counteract 
the course of nature, and to oppose a bar to the de- 
signs of the Deity, are in fact synonymous phrases, 
and therefore all alterations in the course of nature 
are so many obstacles^ daringly presented by feeble 
man against the designs of his creator. 

Agreeable to this, the epithet unnatural indicates 
perhaps the most severe, aggravated, and relentless 
odium ever harboured in the human bosom. It is 
perfectly self-justifying, nor does the accused dare 
to call for any proof or testimony in support of the 
change : it is also quite irresistible, and no plea can 
be heard in mitigation of its effect. 

Now all successive discoveries and their applica- 
tion to fact, constitute So many alterations of the 
laws of nature. But no discovery is ever applied 
except for the purpose of augmenting human com- 
fort — for there is no other motive to employ it. 
Consequently all augmentation of human happiness, 
by an improved knowledge of facts, is unnatural, or 


contrary to the laws of nature : that is, it is an impi- 
ous counteraction of the designs of God. It natu- 
rally therefore becomes the object of the bitterest 
religious antipathy, and all practical improvement is 
thus pre-extinguished and stifled in the birth, by 
the sweeping epithet of unnatural. 

It is vain to urge, that the fact falsifies these con- 
clusions — that the promotion of human comfort, by 
means of an augmented knowledge of the passing 
phenomena, is never proscribed and regarded as 
opposite to the divine will, except in a few particu- 
lar cases; while in the greatier number of instances 
no one ever introduces the supposition. It is suffi- 
cient for my purpose to shew that this effect is pro- 
duced in a certain numbec of cases ; more in some 
climates and ages, fewer in others — that practices 
conducive to human happiness have been branded 
and repelled simply on the ground of being unnatu- 
ral. For this is satisfactory evidence that natural 
religion has a tendency to engender an hostility to 
improvement ; and that if the tendency does not 
manifest and realize itself io every particular in- 
stance, this is because other causes operate in coun- 
teraction of it. 

The increase of light and wisdom throughout Eu-* 
rope, has, indeed happily tended to dispel this error,, 
and to restrict the application of such an interdict 
against improvement to a comparatively small num- 
ber of cases, wherein either peculiar prejudices, or 
injury to some powerful sinister interest, act with 
more than usual effect upon the antipathies of man- 
kind. But still the interdict exists ; and it is only the 
dissentient voice of public opinion which suspends 
its execution. For whenever sentence is passed 
against any particular mode of amelioration, it is 
always by virtue of the standing enactment against 
all — that is by accusations of contrariety to the laws 
of nature and the designs of the Deity ; which would> 


if pursued consistently, prohibit all improvement 
whajfcever. And the only scheme for parrying such 
aa accusation is borrowed from this inconsistency, 
and general non-execution of the enactment: '' You 
do not object to an alteration of the laws of miMtt 
for purposes of human happiness^ in such and suck 
oases — Why awaken your sleeping restriction here, 
and attach so much criminality to this particular 
plan, simply on the score of being unnatural or an 
innovation upon the laws of Nature?" 

There has been a period when religion was ar* 
rayed to silence the discoveries of Galileo, and to 
prohibit physical and medicinal improvemieots, such 
as the emetic. If such sentences are no longer ha* 
«arded now, it is not from any change in the spirit 
and tendency of the law, but from its progressive 
weakness and loss of dominion, the natural result of 
the diffusion of knowledge. 

Mischief III. — Disqualifying the intellec- 

Tliere are several modes in which religion tends to 
unfit the mental faculties for the promotion of the 
mere temporal happiness of mankind. Considered 
with reference to a posthumous existence, indeed, 
which divines justly regard as far more important 
than the present, her influence may be highly bene- 
ficial in qualifying us for the lot there to be awarded. 
But these magnificent promises cannot be realized 
without a transient loss in this preparatory state — 
and amongst all the modes in which this loss is in- 
curred, few are more serious than the disqua3ification 
of our intellects. 


Section I. — Disjoining Belief from Experience. 

It has been remarked ia the early part of this vo- 
lume, that the primary and unsolicited provision of 
mature consists for the most part of pains and wanta 
• — that the means of soothing the one and satisfying 
the otjater, were the gradual and toilsome discovery 
of man, ev^i now far from being perfected^— that 
consequently all pleasure, and exemption from suf- 
fering, was the fruit of knowledge. If a man does 
not know the way to avoid or to remedy an impend- 
mg paun^ he will be cjcwnpelled to suflferit: If he 
does not know the way to procure any particular 
pleasure^ the pleasure will not seek him of its own 
accord, and be will, therefore, be obliged to forego 
it. . 

But. all our knowledge with regard to pleasure 
and pain is derived from experience. To know the 
way of procuring the former and escaping the latter, 
some one must have made trial. Knowledge can 
only be instru«iental for these purposes, whai it is 
the statement and summary of the trials which have 
thus been mode. 

Now knowledge consists in the belief of certain 
facts : All useful knowl6dge> therefore, (that is, all 
whi<A can be instrumental in multiplying the enjoy- 
ments and diminishing the sufferings of this life) coii- 
sists in believing facts conformable to experience- 
in believing the modes of producing pleasure and 
avoiding pain to be, in each particular case, such as 
aetual trial indicates. It is on the conformity of be- 
lief with experience, therefore, that the attainment 
of pleasure and the prevention of misery, in every 
case without exception, is founded. 

Such is the inestimable voltie, indeed, the essen- 
tial and overwhelming necessity, of belief conforma- 
ble to experience. Belief unconformable to expe- 
rience is not applicable, in any degree, to the re- 


moval of unhappiness, oY th« production of enjoy- 
ment; and consequently is altogether useless. The 
whole utility of belief, therefore, consists in this con- 

To maintain and extend the alliance between be- 
lief and experience will thus appear to be incalcula- 
bly the most important object of human endeavour. 
Whatever promotes such an attempt, must be con- 
sidered as a most valuable instrument for the augmen- 
tation of happiness; since this is the only means by 
which it can be augmented. And conversely, what- 
ever tends to disjoin belief from experience, must be 
regarded as crippling, to a greater or less extent, the 
sole engine by which our preservation even from in- 
cessant suffering is ensured, and tending to dis- 
qualify our mental faculties for purposes of temporal 
happiness. * • 

Such is the injurious effect (with reference to the 
present life) of disjoining the two — or of making us 
believe any thing uncertified by experience. Who- 
ever acts upon such an uncertified persuasion, or in- 
duces any one else to act upon it, can never attain 
any benefit by it, and may occasion very serious evil. 
Indeed all human errors are only so many manifesta- 
tions of this unsanctioned belief. 

As all real facts, or instances of belief thus Certifi- 
ed, mutually bang together and tend to support each 
other, so that he who acquires any one is thereby as- 
sisted and placed in a better condition for the acqui- 
sition of more — in the same manner all errors, or un- 
certificated persuasions, though heterogeneous and 
discordant one with another, yet conspire all to one 
common end, that of deranging the conformity of be- 
lief to experience. Each separate instance of this 
want of conformity engenders others, and renders 
the mind less likely to keep close to a conformable 
belief upon other occasions. Every particular in- 
stance, therefore, besides the mis-calculations to 


which it may directly and of itself give birth, is inju- 
rious by the general habit of derangement which it 
creates in the mental system — by preparing the in- 
tellect to be at other periods the recipient of useless 
or uncertified belief. You cannot impress upon the 
mind one such persuasion, without rendering it liable 
to the incursions of others to any extent. 

He, for example, whq reposes faith in the ac- 
counts of Lilliput and Brobdignag, must have a mind 
so constituted, as to believe on many other occasions 
without the warrant of experience. We should 
mark our sense of this by attaching less credit to his 
opinions, and describing him under appropriate epi- 
thets of inferiority. We should readily admit that 
such a peculiarity of mind comparatively incapaci- 
tated him from directing either his own conduct or 
ours to -any salutary purpose. If this disposition 
to uncertified belief spreads still farther in his mind, 
and manifests itself in a considerable number of 
cases, we then term it insanity. His belief then be- 
comes not only useless for our guidance, but immi- 
nently dangerous and threatening to our security. 
Accordingly we do not permit it to direct even his 
own actions, but immediately subject his body to a 
foreign super-intendance 

Such are the unhappy consequences produced by 
a deviation of belief from experience. This dis- 
junction, when frequent and embracing subjects of 
importance, constitutes insanity, and renders an in- 
dividual utterly incapable of providing for his own 
happiness, as well as a destructive foe to that of his 
fellow-creatures : When rare and confined to trifling 
subjects, it causes a ptoportionably slighter deprava- 
tion of his mental faculties, but never fails to impair 
in a greater or less degree, his competency of judg- 
ing for the welfare of himself and of others. It is 
most important to keep in mind^ that madness with 
all its dreadful consequences is only a totaldivorce 


of belief from experience — that all intellectual weak- 
ness is the fruit of this divorce to a lesser extent — and 
that every separate instance in which such a disjunc- 
tion is effected, by whatever cause it may be, lays 
the mind open to the attacks of other disjoining 
causes; thus creating a disease which is sure to 

Having thus exposed the enormous evils which re- 
sult from the disjunction of belief from experience, 
I proceed to show the modes in which natural re- 
ligion inevitably causes such a disjunction. 

1 . The fundamental tenet of natural religion is, the 
persuasion that there exists a Being unseen, unheard, 
untouched, untasted, and unsmelt — his place of resi- 
dence unknown — hi« shape and dimensions unknown 
— his original beginning undiscovered. This is what 
the negative terms invisible^ omnipresent, infinite, ^hd 
eternal, imply. , 

Now the very description of this Being obviously 
shews, that no one can ever have had any experience 
of his existence. To have experience of any thing 
external to ourselves, supposes certain concomitant 
circumstances — the exercise of one of our senses — a 
definite time and place of existence — a particular 
size and figure. Without these concomitants, expe- 
rience cannot take place, and the sublime concep- 
tion of infinite attributes at once negatives them all. 
You cannot state that God is in a particular place, 
because that would imply tliat he was not in any 
other place — since the only intent of particulariza- 
tion is to exclude every thing except that which is 
specified. Our persuasion, therefore, of God cannot 
be founded upon experience. 

The very basis, therefore, of natural religion is an 
article of extra-eaperimental belief, or of belief alto- 
. gether unconformable to experience. It has a ten- 
dency, thus in the very outset, to introduce that 
naental depravation which we have demonstrated to 


he the inevitable result of this species of belief. I 
do not here intend to assert that the doctrine in 
question is untrue, but merely to point out the pe- 
culiarity of the evidence on which it rests — that it is 
a persuasion uncertified by experience, and, there- 
fore, vitiating the intellect so far as regards mere 
temporal interests. Whether true or untrue, in 
either case, the very nature of the belief occasions it 
to produce the same disqualifying effect upon the 
mental faculties. 

2. Our belief with regard to the original creative 
power of God, and the design with which it was ex- 
erted, is alike uncertified by experience. No man 
has ever had experience of the commencement of 
things : And, therefore, whatever account we admit 
as to their origin, our belief must be eMra-cvperi- 
mental. £f the interests of the present life require 
that our persuasion should never deviate from expe- 
rience, they also require that we should not attempt 
to account for the original commencement of things 
— ^because it is obvious that experience must be en- 
tirely silent upon that subject. 

The belief in design, as dictating the exertion of 
this creative power, is alike extra-experimentaL 
Experience exhibits to us design only in man and 
animals ; and in them its effects are confined to the 
displacement of matter, and the admotion or amotion 
of its particles to and from each other. This is all 
which experience shews us to be produced by de- 
sign; and we cannot believe that it produces any 
other effects, without falling into the disease of e.r- 
tra-esperimental persuasion. 

Besides, to say that the human body, or the uni- 
verse, was brought into the order which >ye now see, 
by design — this supposes a previous state in whicl^ 
the parts of the hupian body were lying about in a 
teap — fibres in one place, brain in another, mem- 
branes and muscles in a third — without the least ten- 


dency to combine together and form a whole. De- 
sign pre-supposes the existence of substances endued 
with certain properties, and can only be pretended 
to account for their transition, from one relative si- 
tuation called confusion, to another called order. 
But has any one ever had experience of this prelimi- 
nary chaos? 

Again, an omnipotent will is something which is 
by its very nature placed beyond the reach of expe- 
rience. Were we permitted indeed to introduce the 
supposition of omnipotence, this would materially 
facilitate the explanation of all other difficult points, 
as well as that of the original of things. Any thing 
will solve the difficulty, provided you are allowed to 
render it omnipotent. Instead of supposing a will 
which can perform every thing, you may suppose 
fire or water which can perform every thing, and all 
results are equally well explained. Why was Epi- 
curus forced into such absurdities in attempting to 
explain all phenomena by the doctrine of atonas, or 
Thales by that of water? From the difficulty of re- 
conciling these phenomena with atoms or water of 
limited power and properties. Had they dai'ed to 
discard openly these limitations, the difficulty of the 
task would have vanished. When the fairy with her 
all-powerful wand has once been introduced, it is 
as easy to explain the sudden rise of a palace, as of a 

These considerations, we think, clearly demon- 
strate that all belief in design, as having been ori- 
ginally instrumental in forming the world, is com- 
pletely extra-experimental. 

3. Nor less so is the belief that the Deity will in 
a posthumous existence distribute to us certain plea- 
sures and pains. It is plain that whatever be the 
evidence on which this persuasion is built, experi- 
ence teaches us nothing about it. 

4. Another case of extra-experimental conviction 

implanted by religion is, the belief of God's agency 
in the present life. As it is in this case that the 
mischiefs flowing from such uncertified belief assume 
the most determinate and palpable shape, we shall 
examine it at greater length than the rest. 

You believe that the Deity interferes occasionally 
to modify the train of events in the present life. 
Your belief is avowedly unconformable to experience, 
for the very essence of the divine interposition is to 
be extrinsic and irreconcileable to the course of 
nature. But mark the farther consequences: You 
dethrone and cancel the authority of experience in 
every instance whatever ; and you thus place yourself 
out of condition to prove any one fact, or to disprove 
any other. 

What steps do you take to prove that a man has 
committed murder? You produce a witness who saw 
him level his pistol at the head of the deceased, 
heard the report, and beheld the man drop. But 
this testimony drives all its persuasive force from the 
warrant and countersign of experience. Without 
this it is perfectly useless. Unless I know by pre- 
vious experience that eye witnesses most commonly 
speak the truth — that a pistol ball takes the direc- 
tion in which it is levelled and not the opposite — ^I 
should never be convinced, by the attestation of these 
particular facts, of that ulterior circumstance which 
you wish me to infer. To complete the proof, two 
things are requisite ; the previous lessons of expe- 
rience, and the applicability of these lessons to the 
present case. But no such application can take 
place unless the course of nature remains the 
same as it was before, A gratuitous assumption 
must therefore be n^ade, that the course of nature 
continues inviolate and uniform. But to assume 
this in every particular case, is to assume the univer- 
sal inviolability of the laws of nature. 

\l^hoever therefore believes these laws to be vio- 


lable at the will of an incomprehensible Being, com" 
pletely debars himself from the application of all 
previous experience to the existing fact. If they ^ 
are violable at all, why may they not have been vio- 
lated in the case before us ? No imaginable reiason 
can be assigned for this — because in order to consti- 
tute a reason — in order to make a complete proof — 
you must presuppose that uniformity of the dourse 
of nature which your reason is intended to vindicate. 
Whether you assume her laws to be violable or in- 
violable, you must adhere to the same assumption^ 
throughout. If you say that they are inviolable, you 
cannot maintain them to be infringed in any parti- 
cular case — if you hold that they are violable, you 
cannot assume them to be permanent and uniform ^ 
in a»y one case. 

If therefore you believe the agency of an incom- 
prehensible Being in the affairs of this life, your 
beliefis such as would, were it pursued consistently, 
exclude you from all application of past experience 
to the future— and therefore incapacitate you from 
contriving any defence against coming pains, or any 
modes of procuring pleasures. 

Again, this belief also precludes you from apply- 
ing the process of refutation, and thus from detecting 
any falsehood whatever. For no assertion can ever 
be refuted except by offering proof of some other 
assertion, and then appealing to experience for a 
certificate of the incompatibility of th^ two. A man 
clears himself from an alleged crime by proving an 
alibi. The whole virtue of this defence rests upon 
the presumption, that experience attests the impos- 
sibility of performing a certain act at more than a 
certain distance. If it. is suggested that the laws of 
nature are violable — if it is questioned whether the 
previous lessons of experience are applicable to this 
particular case — then, inasmuch as no evidence of 
their applicability can be adduced, the process of 


disproof is at once nullified. The inviolability of the 
course of nature must be gratuitously assumed as 
the root from which all incompatibility between any 
two assertions, and therefore all proof of the falsehood 
of either, is derived. 

Hence the belief of an unseen agent, infringing at 
pleasure the laws of nature, appears to be pregnant 
With the most destructive consequences. , It discre- 
dits and renders inadmissible the lessons of expe- 
rience : It vitiates irrecoverably the processes both 
of proof and refutation, thereby making truth incapa- 
ble of being established, and falsehood incapable of 
being detected : It withdraws from us the power of 
distinguishing the true methods, of procuring enjoy- 
ment or avoiding pain, from tiie raise ones; and 
plunges us into the naked, inexperienced and help- , 
less condition of a new-born child — thereby qualify- 
ing us indeed for the kingdom of heaven, but leaving 
us wholly defenceless against the want6 and sufferings 
of earth. 

I do not indeed affirm that this ea^tra-ej^peri- 
mental belief has actually produced — ^what if adhered 
to with consistency, it ought to produce — an entire 
mistrust of all experience. The necessity for a 
general reliance on the stability of nature has been 
too powerful to be resisted — and therefore mankind 
have shuffled off the dangerous consequences by their 
usual resort of inconsistency — sometimes assuming 
the lessons of experience as supreme and incontest- 
able, sometimes disregarding them as arbitrary and 
variable at the will of an incomprehensible Being. 
But though this ejptra-experimental belief has been 
thus only partially entertained and confined to a 
comer of the mind, its pernicious effects have still 
been very great — ^and I shall proceed to specify 
an instance of the manner in which it tends to dis- 
able the intellect, and to expunge all the criteria of 
truth and falsehood. 


It is aot many years since witchcraft was recog- 
nized and prohibited as an actual offence, and per- 
sons tried and condemned for committing it. To 
attempt a defence against such an accusation was 
obviously impracticable. The essence of the crime 
consisted in an alliance with demons, who could at 
pleasure interrupt the course of nature; and there- 
fore it javailed nothing though the defendant could 
prove an unexceptionable alibi. He might, by the 
assistance of his hyperphysical ally, have ridden an 
hundred miles through the air in as many seconds. 
Nor was it possible to determine what facts were or 
were not inconsistent with commission of the crime; 
or consequently, to adduce any thing like excul- 
patory testimony. The defendant was thus laid 
completely at the niercy of the favour or aversion of 
judges unguided by any rational inference, as may 
be seen by consulting any of the old trials for this 
imaginary offence. 

All the unhappy victims who have been condemn- 
ed for witchcraft may be considered as one instance 
of the wretched effects of ewtra-experimental belief; 
as sacrifices occa;sioned by that thorough depravation 
of the intellect,, and erasure of the distinction be- 
tween truth and falsehood, which it is the nature 
of this belief to effect whenever it reigns within the 
tnind. The number of men thus condemned publicly 
has been far from inconsiderabl e — not to mention those 
who have undergone private persecution and suspi- 
cion from their neighbourhood ; a body probably 
more numerous, though less exposed to notice. 

As this persuasion utterly disqualifies mankind 
for the task of filtering truth from falsehood, so the 
multitude of fictitious tales for which it has obtained 
credence and currency in the world, exceeds all com- 
putation. To him who believes in the intervention 
of incomprehensible and unlimited Beings, Ho story 
can appear incredible. The most astonishing narra- 


tives are exempted from cross-examination, and 
readily digested under the title of miracles or prodi- 
gies. Of these miracles, every nation on the face of 
the earth has on record and believes thousands. 
And as each nation disbelieves all except its own, 
each, though it believes a great many, yet disbelieves 
more. The most enthusiastic believer in miracles, 
therefore, cannot deny that an enormous excess of 
false ones have obtained credence amongst the larger , 
portion of mankind. . The root of all these fictions, 
by which the human intellect has thus been cheat- 
ed and overrun, is the extra-ea^perimental belief , of 
the earthly interference of God ; and the immense 
evil arising from such a deception is another of its 
pernicious results. 

Nor should we omit, in reckoning up these results, 
the universal prevalence of the expectations arising 
out of this belief in paticular interpositions of the 
Deity. Entertaining this conviction, a man is of course 
led to frame some conjecture on what occasions the 
unseen Being will be likely to interpose. He natu- 
rally selects those, on which his anticipations are 
most at fault, and when he is most ignorant what 
real event is to be expected. In this state the ex- 
perimental belief ceases to suggest any predictions, 
and the extra-cvperimental of course steps into the 
vacant chair and assumes the rod of prophecy. 
Hence, insteadof adopting the most skilful expedients 
whicha comparison of the known phenomena would 
suggest, his behaviour will be determined either by 
some accidental and incomprehensible peculiarity 
of circumstance, or by certain deceitful and irrele- 
vant conceptions of the divine attributes. 

It would be both useless and impracticable to 
enumerate all those trifling casualties which have, in 
one place or another, been regarded as manifestations 
of God's interference. The flight of birds — the 
neighing of a horse — the drawing of lots — and a thou^ 


sand other such inconsequential incidents have been 
consulted as instructors and guides to human short- 
sightedness, and as interpreters of the divine decrees. 
To disregard one of them was considered as an act of 
impiety, and contempt of a special warning. The phe- 
nomena thus selected have been infinitely various — 
the doctrine and principle exactly similar throughout. 

To illustrate the depravation of judgment pro- 
duced by these expectations of divine interference,' 
it is important to remark their effect when recog- 
nized and acted upon in the system of judicature — 
a province wherein, as it demands the most complete 
preparation and use of the faculties, all mistaken prin- 
ciples are the most prominently displayed. 

The trial by ordeal has been most universally ap- 
proved and established, in the infancy at least of 
all societies, from Hindostan to America. Unable 
to discover satifactory criteria of guilt and innocence, 
by a just comparison of conflicting testimony, man- 
kind have endeavoured to extricate themselves from 
the uneasy feelings of doubt, by a blind reliance on 
the extra-erperimental belief. In confidence that 
the point would be decided for them, they have 
abandoned the task of determining it for themselves, 
and have been contented with executing what they 
regarded as the divine verdict. Now certainly if 
the Deity is ever in any case believed to interpose, 
this is the occasion of all others when his interposi- 
tion would be most naturally and most rationally an- 
ticipated, supposing him truly benevolent. Were a 
chief-justice animated by genuine benevolence, his 
feelings would not permit him to remain inactive, 
when his efforts might extricate the innocent from 
impending punishment, or expose the shifts of the 

But though this is by far the most defensible case 
in which divine interpositions have ever been looked 
for, we hear it unanimously treated, by writers of 


present day, as a symptom of the most pitiable imbe- 
cility — as utterly iiicotnpetent to elicit the truth— 
and as the most cruel distortion of penal judicature. 
The miserable effects which a belief in the temporal 
agency of God has produced, in this case alone 
without mentioning others, are incalculable. Reflect 
on the number of persons whom the issue of the 
ordeal has consigned to unmerited torture, or pro- 
tected from an appropriate penalty — on the bar thus 
opposed to all improvement in the judicial process — 
on the extension of this method of lottery to all 
other matters of doubt, which its reception in the 
sacred field of judicature would countenance: Con- 
sider too that these evils still infest perhaps the 
larger portion of the globe, and all the uninstructed 
nations who inhabit it. This immense mass of mis- 
fortune flows from one particular application — and 
that too the most rationally deduced from the cur- 
rent hypothesis — of the belief in the temporal inter- 
ference of the Deity. 

The example which has been just cited is of great 
value, because we there behold the belief in super- 
human agency applied to a distinct and particular 
case, and thence producing consequences which it 
is impossible to shuffle over or evade. These con- 
sequences are universally admitted to be most per- 
nicious, in the instance of ordeal — and similar effects 
cannot fail to result, whenever the same belief is 
elsewhere entertained and applied to action. He 
who feel confidence that the Deity will decide for 
him a particular point, or realise any other object of 
his wishes, will of course take no pains to foi^m his 
own opinion, or to attain the object by his own efforts. 
Reliance on foreign aid, if perfect and full, super- 
sedes the necessity of self-exertion altogether — and 
if the person thus relying puts himself to atty trouble, 
whatever, it is only because his confidence is not 
perfect. A man sits still while his servant is bring- 


ing up bre&kfa$t, becau^ he feeb quite confident 
that his desires will be attained without any trouble 
of his own. The belief therefore in super-hupian in- 
terference cannot fail, when firmly and thoroughly 
entertained, to produce an entire abandonment of 
the means suggested by experience for human en- 
joyments If the Almighty declares against us, our 
efforts are fruitless — if in our favour, they are unne- 
cessary : In neither case therefore have we any motive 
to make efforts. 

Expectation of effects on the ground of the divine 
attributes must thus, so far as it is really genuine 
and operative, extinguish all forecast, and cut all 
the sinews of human exertion. It must produce 
this effect whenever it produces any at all; and if 
such a result is not actually brought about, it is only 
because the nullity of the expectation has been in 
part exposed, and its influence proportionally weak- 

Any doctrine may be stated aa having a tendency 
to introduce those Consequences which are consist- 
ently and legitimaleiy deducible from it — and while 
the doctrine is maintained in any one instance, there 
is always a chance that it will be extended to every 
other. He who looks for superhuman aid in one in- 
Btance, is at l^st liable to do so on another. On 
this ground it is important to notice the mischievous 
tendency of these expectations, in a case where it 
would not be easy to trace home to them any pal- 
pable and specific evil consequences, such as those 
of the ordeal. 

Expectations firom the divine attribute of pliability 
have been and still continue universal. At least 
this is the foundation of the frequent prayers which 
ar^ put up to Heaven for different species of relief — 
built, not upon the benevolence of God, for them 
his assistance would be extended alike to all the 
needy, whether silent or clamorous; but upon his 


yielding and accessible temper, which though indif* 
ferentif not addressed, beeomefe the warm and com- 
piiant partizan of every petitioner. 

Now these expectations, supposing them well* 
founded and firmly entertained, cannot feil to intro- 
duce complete inactivity among the huriian race. 
Why should a man employ the slow and toilsome 
methods to which experience chains him down, when 
the pleasure which he seeks may be purchased by a 
. simp e act of prayer? Why should he plough, and 
sow, tmd walk his annual round of anxiety, when by 
the mere expression of a request, an omnipotent ally 
may be induced to place the mature produce in • 
'^tantly within his grasp? No, it is replied — God will 
not assist him unless he employs all his own ex^- 
tions: he will not favour the lazy. In this defence 
however it is implied, either that the individual is not 
to rely upon God at all, in which case there is no 
motive to offer up the prayer— or that he is to feel 
a reliance, and yet act as if he felt none whatever. 
It is implied, therefore, that the conduct of the indi- 
vidual is to be exactly the same as if he did not antici- 
pate any super-human interference. By this defence, 
you do indeed exculpate the belief in supernatural 
agency from the charge of producing pernicious 
eflfects — because you reduce it to a mere non-entity, 
and make it produce no effects at all. 

If therefore the request is offered up with any 
hope of being realised, it infallibly proves pernicious, 
by relaxing the efforts of the petitioner to provide 
for himself. Should be believe that God will, when 
he himself has done his utmost, make up the defici- 
ency and crown his views with success; the effedt 
will be to make him undertake any enterprizes what- 
ever, without regarding the inadequacy of his means. 
Provided he employs actively all the resources 
in his power, he becomes entitled to have the ba- 
lance made up from the divine treasury. "God 


never sends a child" (says the proverb) ** but he 
sends food for it to eat," What is the natural infe- 
rence from this doctrine, except that a man may 
securely marry without any earthly means of pro- 
viding for his family, inasmuch as God will be sure 
to send him some? 

What preserves the evil effects of this right of pe- 
titioning, which man is asserted to possess over the 
Deity, from the notoriety and exposure to which the 
consequences of the ordeal have been subjected — is, 
the very obscure and indistinct class of human wishes 
to which its exercise has gradually been restricted. 
Earthly discoveries and preparations are more com- 
monly preferred for the satisfaction of our usual wants ; 
nor are men so well contented with the provision which 
their heavenly Father has made for them, as to resign 
entirely all thought for the morrow. Some persons 
pray for their daily bread, it. is true, and some do 
not; but every one without exception either works 
for it himself, or secures the services of some of his 
fellow-men. He who would wish to acquire a for- 
tune or to learn a language, and contented himself 
with praying that God would transfer stock to him, 
or pour down the gift of tongues, would be derided 
as insane.. If you ^sk a man whether he would rely 
upon petitions to Heaven for the accomplishment of 
any definite earthly wish, the incongruity of the 
means to the end appears then so glaring, that he 
thinks you are ridiculing him, although the language 
employed may be the gravest and most decorous. 
He will pray either for objects which he is sure to 
obtain with or without prayer, such as his daily 
bread — or for objects which he cannot tell whether 
he obtains or not, such as that the kingdom of 
God may come, that his will may be done in earth 
as it is heaven, &c. or for vague and indeterminate 
gifts, the fulfilment of which is not to be referred 
to any distinct time, such as health, longevity, good 


desires &c. It is only by its results being thus, kept 
in the dark, that the inefficiency of prayer is protec- 
ted from exposure. 

I have thus analysed the several species of 
extra-experimental belief which religion begetfe in 
the mind, consisting in the persuasion, of the ex- 
istence, creative function, and agency both here and 
in a future life, of a supernatural Being. I have 
endeavoured to demonstrate from the very nature of 
this belief, that it cannot fail to disqualify the intel- 
lect for the pursuit of temporal happiness, more or 
less in proportion to the extent in which it is enter- 
tained. For as all our pleasure and all our exemp- 
tion from want and pain, is the result of human pro- 
vision — as these provisions are only so many appli- 
cations of acquired knowledge, that is, of belief 
conformable to experience — it follows, that the 
whole fabric of human happiness depends upon the 
intimate and inviolable union between belief and 
experience. Whatever has the effect of disjoining 
the two, is decidedly of a nature to undermine and 
explode all the apparatus essential to human en- 
joyment — and if this result is not actually produced, 
it is only because the train laid is not sufficiently 
extensive, and is confined to the out- works instead of 
reaching the heart of the fortress. So far as any result 
at all is brought about, it is an advance towards the 
accomplishment of this work of destruction. And 
as every separate case, in which extra-experimental 
belief finds reception in the mind, paves the way for 
others, any one disjunction of belief from experi- 
ence has a tendency to produce their entire and 
universal discordance, 

Mischief IIII. — Suborning unwarranted 


Akin to the foregoing mischief, though not pre- 
tjisely identical, is the distorting influence which 
religion exercises, by numbering belief in the cata- 
logue of duties and merits — disbelief in . that of 
crimes and offences. It has been already explained 
how, in the divine classification of human actions, 
disbelief is characterised as the most heinous of all 
trespasses, and belief as very meritorious, though not 
to a corresponding extent. The severest penalties 
are supposed and proclaimed to await the former ; 
very considerable rewards to follow the latter. 

So far as these threats and premiums are operative 
at all, the effect must be, to make a; m^ji believe 
that which he would not naturally have believed, 
and disbelieve that which he would not naturally- 
have disbelieved. But in the natural state of things, 
a man assents to that which he thinks is supported 
by the best evidence — dissents from what ^appears 
to be refuted by the best evidence. Under such 
circumstances, there is nothing to guide his choice 
except the evidence. By holding out rewards to the 
former, and punishments to the latter, you intro^ 
duce a lateral and extraneous force, which either 
wholly shuts out, or partially disturbs, the influence 
of the respective proofs. So far, therefore, as the 
reward is at all effective, it entices him to beheve 
. upon inadequate proof — so far as the punishment 
acts, it deters him from disbelieving upon adequate 

Consult the analogy' of common life. Is not 
4he offer of a bribe to the judge universally repro- 
bated, as disposing him to wrong and unauthorised 
decision? Is not a threatening letter to jurors recog- 
nised as tending to the same end ? You might in- 


deed all^, thit the judge was honest,, and the ju- 
rors intrepid ; and, therefore, that bribe and threat 
were both ineffectual. But it would be impo3sible 
to controvert the pernicious tendency of these me- 
thodsi supposing them to have any influence at all 
upon the verdict. 

The religious premium offered for faith, tends in 
like manner to corrupt the judgment of an indi- 
vidual,, and to foist in, by means of his hopes and 
partiality, a belief which unbiassed reason would 
not have toler^ated. The penalties denounced 
against unbelief co-operate most powerfully, by 
enlisting his fears in behalf of the sanje self-deceit 
or hypocrisy. 

There are, indeed, limits to the influence of 
rewards and punishments in thus engendering fac- 
titious belief. No man can, while this book is in 
his hand, make himself believe that it is not there. 
But though he cannot thus drive off sensation at 
pleasure ; yet in matters where the triith does not 
obtrude itself so immediately, but must be gathered 
from various and wide-spread fragments of evidence, 
he can withdraw his thoughts from some, and fasten 
them upon others, almost to an unlimited extent. 
Hope ^apd fear, constitute a motive for this undue 
preference ; and his mind gravitates almost uncon- 
sciously towards the gainful side, as it shrinks from 
the terrors of the opposite prospect. He dwells on 
the positive proof of the promising doctrine, and 
sends his invention out in quest of additional rea- 
sons : while the negative is never permitted to oc- 
cupy his attention for an instant* No vf onder that 
the former, by thus exclusively absprbing the mind, 
assume a disproportionate value and magnitude, 
and appear irresistible, merely because nothing of 
ah opposite tendfency is allowed to join issue with 

Such are the unjust and distorted movements of 

1121 • 

the intellect, which an interest in the resuH gene- 
rally produces; and which the rewards and punish- 
ments respectively attached to belief or disbelief, 
must of course contribute to produce also. 

This sort of reward, indeed, operates as a direct 
bounty upon credulity — that is, upon belief unsup- 
ported by sufficient and self-convincing evidence. 
The weaker the evidence, the greater is the merit 
in believing. This follows irresistibly. For if it is 
necessary to encourage belief by an artificial bounty, 
it would be useless to apply this stimulus to any 
doctrine which would of itself command the assent 
of mankind.. The bounty must go where it is most 
needed ; that is, to' the support of doctrines which 
have little or no support of their own — and the 
largest slice of it to those which require the greatest 
encouragement, and would stand the least chance of 
being credited without it. Hence the less reason 
there is for receiving the doctrine, the larger share 
of merit will be awarded to the believer ; and the 
tendency of the religious premium is thus to give 
birth to the most sweeping and indiscriminate cre- 

When assent or dissent has thus become a ques- 
tion of profit and loss, and not of reason, the be- 
liever is interested in bringing into contempt the 
guide whom he has deserted. He? accordingly 
speaks in the most degrading terms of the fallibility 
and weakness of human reason, and of her incapa- 
city to grasp any very lofty or comprehensive subject. 
It thus becomes a positive merit to decide contrary 
to reason, rather than with her. 

But, with regard to provision of pleasure, and 
escape of pain in the present life, reason is admitted 
to be our only safe director. Whatever, therefore, 
throws discredit upon her, or makes mankind neglect 
or mistrust her decisions, places the mind in a state 
less likely to discern and follow the true path 


human happiness. The rewards and punishments, 
which religion affixes respectively to belief and un- 
belief, have the most direct tendency to this state 
of blindness and confusion. They cannot fail to 
engender a habit of credulity ; as well as a reluct- 
ance to examine, and an inability to poise, conflict-, 
ing testimony. Of all mental qualities, this credu- 
lity is the weakest and most fat^l, rendering a man 
an easy prey to deceit and error, and thereby ex- 
posing him to incessant disappointment and loss. 

Suppose government were to offer large rewards 
to all who believed in witches, or in the personality 
and marvellous feats of Hercules or Jack the Giant- 
killer — and to threaten proportionate punishments 
to all disbelievers. No one would question that 
these offers and threats, if they were at all effective, 
would contribute to produce a general perversion of 
intellect — and that they would mislead men's judg- 
ments in numerous other cases besides that one to 
which they immediately applied. Error, when 
once implanted, uniformly and inevitably propagates 
its species. 

Precisely the same in all cases, is the effect of 
erecting belief into an act of merit, and rendering 
^ unbelief punishable. You either produce no result 
at all ; or you bribe and suborn a man into believing 
what he would not otherwise have believed — that is, 
what appears to him inadequately authenticated. 

Mischief V. — Depraving the temper. 

That natural religion depraves the temper, and 
renders it infinitely less efficacious to the production 
of general happiness, has been 'shewn in the preced- 
ing Sections; inasmuch as it has been proved to 
engender virulent antipathies among mankind, or 
direct inclinations to harm each other .♦ I propose 
to exhibit under the present head a farther deterio- 


ration of temper, referable to the same source ; which 
^o^s not announce itself in such palpable and violent 
injuries as the direct antipathy occasions, though its 
effects in corrupting the intercourse of life are most 
real and serious. 

. It may be asserted as a broad and general truths 
t^iat whatever curtails the personal comfort and hap* 
pinesfs of any individual, disqualifies him to an equal 
extent from imparting happiness to his fellow-crea- 
tures; and not only thus much, but even disposes 
him to reduce, if possible, their quota of enjoyment to 
a level with his own. All the privations and misery, 
therefore, which religion inflicts upon an individual, 
extend through him to all those with whom he is 
plaped in contact, and form a deduction from their 
happiness no less real and positive. Every particu* 
lar species of private mischief enumerated in the 
preceding Chapter, is the parent of a train of misfor- 
tunes among the small fraternity which he is connect- 
ed, by the unsocial and malevolent tone of mind 
which it inevitably generates in him. 

There is also another mode in which religion still 
more effectually depraves the temper. The fitful 
and intermittent character of its inducements, irica- 
pable of keeping a steady purchase upon the mind, 
aj^d. daily overborne by urgent physical wants—the 
endless arid almost impracticable compliances ex- 
acted in its code — the misty attributes of its legis- 
lator, who treats every attempt to inquire into his 
proceedings as the most unpardonable of insults — all 
these render it quite impossible for a religionist to 
preserve any thing like a satisfactory accordance 
between his belief and his practice. Hence a per- 
petual uneasiness and*dissatisfaction with himself — a 
sense of infirmity of purpose and dereliction of prin- 
ciple—which is thoroughly fatal to all calmness of 
complacency of mind. Privations or torture might 
by habit become tolerable and even indifferent : but 


this feeling of inferiority and degradation is continually 
renovated, and never ceases to vex the resolving and 
re-resolving sinner. And a mind thus at variance with 
itself can jiever beat peace with any body else, or feel 
sufficient leisure to sympathize with the emotions of 
others. It shelteris its own vacillation under the plea 
of the general debasement and original wickedness of 
the whole human race : and this plea must assuredly 
weaken, if it does not entirely root out, all sympathy 
for such degenerate Beings. 

Dissatisfied with his own conduct, it is hardly pos- 
sible that a man can be satisfied with that of others: 
We are told indeed that this consciousness of imper- 
fection in ourselves ought to engender humility, and 
indulgence towards the defects of our brethren. 
But rarely indeed does it produce any such effect as 
this. , Its general tendency is to sharpen the edge of 
envy — to make us more acute in hunting out and mag- 
nifying the faults of others, inasmuch as nearly, the 
sole comfort remaining to us is, the view of others 
equally distant from the same goal. 

When we consider how infinitely the happiness of 
every family and society depends upon the steadiness 
and equability of disposition in each member, whereby 
all the rest are enabled to ascertain and avoid what- 
ever might offend him — ^and upon the sympathy 
which each man manifests for the feelings of the re- 
mainder — the mischief above explained must be esti- 
mated very high in amount. There can be no equa- 
bility of temper, where there is an unceasing 
conflict of principle and practice — of resolution and 
failure: and where the mind is darkened over by a 
sense of self-abasement and guilt. There can be no 
sympathy either for the enjoyments or the sufferings 
of others, where the thoughts of an individual are 
absorbed in averting posthumous torments or in en- 
titling himself to a posthumous happiness — andwhere 
this object, important as it is, is involved in such ob- 


scurity, as to leave him in a state of perpetual 
anxiety and apprehension. 

It is useless to affirm, that Religion does not in 
feet produce this unhappy result. If it does not, 
this is only because its motives cannot from their 
distance and uncertainty be made to act steadily and 
consistently upon the mind. So far as they do 
act, they tend to this result — and under peculiar 
circumstances, where the influence of the human 
motives is weakened or nearly removed, go far to ac- 
complish it completely. Such is the case in monas- 
teries, as may be seen by consulting the account of 
Don Leucadio Doblado, cited above. 

Mischief VI. — Creating a particular class 


I have endeavoured in the preceding pages to 
point out all the different modes in which natural re- 
ligion acts injuriously upon the temporal happi- 
ness of society. One species of injury yet remains 
to be indicated, and that too of incalculable effect 
and permanence — partly as it is productive of dis- 
tinct mischief, independently and on its own account 
— ^partly as it subsidizes a standing army for the 
perpetuation of all the rest. 

Those, who believe in the existence and earthly 
agency of a super-human being, view all facts which 
they are unable to interpret, as special interventions 
of the celestial hand. Incomprehensible phenomena 
are ascribed naturally to the incomprehensible per- 
son above. They call forth of course the deepest 
horror and astonishment, as being sudden eruptions 
of the super-aerial volcano, and reminding the spec- 
tator of its unsubdued and inexhaustible terror^. 
When any such events ta^ke place, therefore, his 
mind is extremely embarrassed and unhinged, and 


in the highest degree unfit for measuring the correct- 
ness of any inferences which immediate fear may 
suggest. , * 

Now incomprehensible phenomena occur very 
frequently in the persons of different men — that is, 
certain men are often seen to act in a manner which 
the spectator is unable to reconcile with the general 
principles of human action, so far as they are known 
to him. Incomprehensible men and incomprehen- 
sible modes of behaviour, when they do thus hap- 
pen, are of course subject to the same construction 
as other unintelligible events, and are supposed to 
indicate a signal intei:ference of the Deity. When 
therefore the actions of ai>y man differ strikingly 
from the ordinary march of human conduct, we 
naturally imagine him to be under the peculiar im- 
pulse and guidance of the divine finger. 

Of incomprehensible behaviour the two extremes, 
though diametrically opposite kinds, are superior 
wisdom, and extravagant folly. A loftier and better 
cultivated intelligence attains his ends by means 
which we cannot fathom — overleaps difficulties which 
seem to us insurmountable — foresees consequences 
which we had never dreamt of. His system of ac- 
tion is to us altogether perplexing and inexplicable. 
There are others again who seem insensible to the 
ordinary motives of man — whose thoughts, words, 
and deeds are alike incoherent and inconsequential — 
whose incapacity disqualifies them from the com- 
monest offices of life. Such is the other species of 
incomprehensible man, whom we generally term an 
idiot or madman, according to circumstances. Both 
the extremes of intelligence and folly thus exhibit 
phenomena which we are unable to account for, and 
are each therefore referred to the immediate influence 
and inspiration of God*. 

* In a former part of this volume, I have assimilated the God of 


Amongst early societies, where a very limited 
number of phenomena have yet been treasured up 
for comparison, and where the established general 
principles are built upon so narrow an induction, 
events are perpetually occuririg which seem at 
variance with them. The sum of principles thus 
established is called the course of nature and the 
exceptions to them, or supernatural inroads, are 
extremely frequent. Accordingly, men of unaccount- ^ 
able powers and behaviour are easy to be found, 
where the standard of comparison is so imperfectly 
known ; and the belief in particular persons, as in- 
spired by God, is proportionably prevalent in an 
early stage of society. • , 

Conformably to the foregoing doctrine, we find 
that inide nations generally consider madmen and 
idiots as persons under the impulse of unseen spirits, 
and view them with peculiar awe and reverence. 
This however, thqugh a remarkable fact and signally 
illustrative of the ^principle, yet leads to no impor- 
tant consequences and may be dismissed without 
farther comment, But the belief of a divine inspira- 
tion and concomitancy in persons of superior in- 
natural religion, on the ground of his attribute of incomprehensibi- 
lity, to a madman. But as this property is here asserted to belong to 
the superior intelligence also, it may be asked why I did not 
compare the divine being to him, instead of choosing a simile ap- 
parently so inappropriate. In reply to this, I mugt introduce a. 
concise but satisfactory distinction. 

The madman is one, incomprehensible both in the ends which he 
seeks and in the means which he takes to attain them -one whose 
desires and schemes are alike inconsistent and unfathom^bte. The 
superior genius is one, whose ends we can understand and sssigii 
perfectly, but whose means for attaining them are inexplicable — 
inasmuch rfs his fertility of invention, and originality of thought, 
has enabled him to combine bis operations in a manner never pre- 
viously witnessed. 

Now both the ends which the Deity proposes, and the means by 
which he pursues them, are alike above, the comprehension of our 
finite intellects. And this suffices to vindicate the propriety of my 
^original comparison. 


telligience, is productive of gr^t and lasting changes 
in the structure of the social union ; and it is moat 
instructive as well as curious to trace the gradual 
pi^ogress of these alterations. A madman is unable 
to take advantage of any prejudice existing in his 
ftivour among mankind, or to push such a feeling into 
its most profitable result. It terminates, therefore, 
in those spontaneous eflfusions of reverence, which 
do not extend their eflfects beyond the actual moment 
and individual. 

In order to lead to any lasting consequence, it is 
necessary that the performer of incomprehensible 
acts should possess sufficient acuteness to take ad- 
vantage of the inference which mankind are disposed 
to draw from them. He need not indeed be a first- 
rate intellect — but he must be some degrees above 
a madman or an idiot. 

The inferences which an unenlightened mind is in 
this case inclined to adopt, are indeed most extensive 
and important. A man is seen, or believed, to produce 
some given effect, by means which the spectators did 
not before know to be adequate to that effect : Astonish- 
ed at such an unforeseen result, they think they can- 
not too highly magnify the extent of his power. It 
has already surpassed their anticipations very much — ' 
therefore there is no knowing by how much more it 
may surpass them — no possibility of conceiving its 
limits. He is therefore invested for the time with 
omnipotence, by the supposed momentary descent 
and co-operation of the unseen Being above. But 
if the Almighty has condescended to pay such point- 
ed attention to any individual, this must be owing 
to some very peculiar intimacy between them. The 
individual must possess extraordinary means of re- 
commending himself to the favour of God, in order 
to attract the distinction of a supernatural visit, and 
to be honoured with the temporary loan of a fraction 
of omnipotence* He must stand high in the estima- 


tion of the Deity, and must therefore be well ac- 
quainted with his disposition, and with the modes of 
conciliating or provoking him. 

Such are the long train of inferences which the 
performance of an unaccountable act suggests to the 
alarmed beholders. It is important to remark the 
gigantic strides by which the mind is hurried on it 
knows not where, beyond all power of stoppage or 
limit, the moment it quits the guidance of observa- 
tion, and is induced to harbour extra-experimen- 
tal belief. A man is seen to do an imcompre- 
hensible deed : The utmost consequence which ex- 
perience would extract from this, would be, that 
under circumstances not very dissimilar, the same 
man could repeat the deed. If a king is seen to 
remove one inan'§ scrofula by the touch, experience 
might warrant us in conjecturing, that he might cure 
the same disease in another : But it would be as ri- 
diculous to infer from this single fact, that he pos- 
sessed the power of performing any other feats, as 
it would be to conclude that, because mercury quick- 
ened the action of the liver, you might rely upon it for 
the alleviation of the gout. Such, I say, would be 
the conclusion of a rational observer. But the mind, 
when once disengaged from observation, and initiat- 
ed into' extra-experimental belief, rolls about without 
measure in her newly acquired phrenzy, and glances 
in a moment from earth to heaven and from heaven to 
earth. To him that hath, more shall be given: Pursu- 
ant to this maxim, we ascribe to the man who asto- 
nishes us by one incomprehensible feat, the ability of 
astonishing us still more by a great many others. 
Nay, the power, which we are led to conceive as 
exerted, seems too vast to be ascribed to him alone. 
We therefore introduce an omnipotent accomplice 
into the scene, and regard the feat as indicating the 
intervention of a hand suflficiently mighty to work 
any imaginable marvel. Such is the prompt and 


and T6tc*ible transit whfet-^by thfe eMtd'eTperimtntdl 
bfelievfer is hurried on io stvell the pb^er which h6 
beholds into a greater, and that still fkrthet into the 
greatest — until at last an act of legerdemain is mag* 
ilifled into aft eichibitioti of omnipotence. 

But however unwarranted the inferences thu$ 
Stated may appear, their effect is not the less im- 
portant. The wondei*- wo t-ker gains ci^edit for pos- 
feessin|^ ati e jttent of poWer to whieh We can assign 
tio Hhiits ; We view him as a privileged being, pos- 
sessed of a general powelr of attorney from the Al- 
iiiighty to irttepret his feelings, to promulgate his 
v^^ill, and to draw for supernatural recompiense and 
puttishments at pleasure. In virtue of this extensive 
defiutation, the principal becoiftes responsible fol: 
every thing which his emissary says and does, and 
fe supposed to resign the ^hole tnanageMent of 
eai^thly affairs in favour of the latter. 

A wOftder- worker thus, by iftetely producing aft 
adequate ftieasure of astonishment iri the bosoms of 
ftiiftfkiftd. Is immediately exalted into a statioii Of 
supreme necessity and importance. All knowledge 
of the divine will, all assistance from the divine 
power, can only be attained through his mediettioft. 
The patronage thus astfribed to him is eftofmous, 
aftd is, like all other patronage, readily cOntettrbie 
into every other sort of emolumeht Or desirable ob- 
ject. Eveify otie who seeks the divine favour, Will 
not ftil to propitiate the mitiister by Whom his peti- 
tioft must be coUfatersigfted-^Whosfe blessing or curse 
determines his future treatment at the hands of the 
Deity. Knowledge of the divifte intentions is aftother 
perennial source of influence and luere ,f o the W6n- 
der-wotker. Heftce he is supposed to foi*eknow the 
pheiiomena of nature, and the ignorant, when in 
doribty regulate their behaviour by the results which 
he prognosticates. His patent too of interpreting 
the divine decrees, to which no competitor has any 


access, virtually empowers him to manufacture a 
decalogue on his own account, and to enforce its 
mandates by all the terrors of spiritual police and 

Powers of such tremenduous magnitude appear 
amply suflScierit to enslave and lay postrate the 
whole community. And this they infallibly would do, 
were the extra-experimental belief steady, equable, 
and consistent with itself, always applying similar 
principles oii similar occasions ; and if it were never 
over-borne by the more immediate motives and ac- 
quisitions of earth. The urgent necessity of pro- 
viding for temporal exigencies, which are too pres- 
sing to await the result of an application to heaven, 
impels the minds of men in another direction, and 
models their associations more and more according 
to the dictates of experience. Having acquired, by 
their own exertions, the means of satisfying their 
wants, they have not so great an occasion for aerial 
aid, and all successive accumulations of knowledge 
tend to weaken the influence of the divine deputy 
over them. 

My present purpose, however, is to investigate 
not so much the extent of this influence, as the di- 
rection in which it operates. We design to shew, 
that the performer of prodigies (or this class, if there 
be more than one) when elevated to the post of in- 
terpreter and administrator of the divine will, and 
exercising an influence built upon these privileges — 
becomes animated with an interest incurably and in 
every point hostile to human happiness: That their 
sway can only be matured and perfected by the en- 
tire abasement and dismantling of the human facul- 
ties; and that therefore all their energies must be 
devoted to the accomplishment of this destructive 
work, by the best means which opportunity pre- 

1. They have the strongest interest in the depra- 


vation of the human intellect. For the demand for^ 
their services as agents for the temporal aid of the 
Deity, altogether depends upon human ignorance 
and ilicapacity, and is exactly proportional to it. 
Why does a man apply for the divine assistance? 
Because he does not know how to accomplish his 
ends without it, or how to procure the requisite ap- 
paratus for the purpose. If he knew any physical 
means of attaining it, he would unquestionably pre- 
fer them. Every extension therefore of physical 
methods in the gratification of our. wishes, displaces 
and throws out of employment by so much the la- 
bour ot the aerial functionaries. No one prays for 
the removal of a disease by supernatural aid, when 
he once knows an appropriate surgical remedy. 
He therefore who lives by the commission which he 
charges on* the disposal of the former, has a mani- 
fest interest in checking the advance and introduc- 
tion of the latter. 

Besides, the accumulation of experimental know- 
ledge excludes the supernatural man from another 
of his most lucrative employments — that of predict- 
ing future events. Those who are the most igno- 
rant of physical connections, and therefore the least 
qualified to form a judgment as to any particular 
result, are of course the most frequent in their ap- 
plications for extra-physical guidance, and the most 
likely to follow it. This is their sole mode of procur- 
ing the most indispensable of all acquisitions. Upon 
them too it is the most easy to palm a vague and 
t>racular response or decree as to the future, capable 
of applying to almost atiy result; And they are the 
most easily imposed upon by shifts and pretences 
which veil the incapacity of the respondent. When 
mankind advance a little in knowledge, and become 
inquisite, the task of the soothsayer becomes more 
knd more difficult; whereas ignorance and credulity 
are diuped without any great pains. The superna- 


tvral ag^nt therefore has a deadly interest agamst the 
advaiMje of knowledge, not only a& it introduces a 
better machinery for obtaining acquaintwce. .with 
the future, and thereby throws him out tif employe 
ment as a prophet^-but also as it enables caankiriff 
to d^ect the hollow, fictitious, and illusory nature of 
his own predicting establishment. 

2. As he is interested in impeding the progress o^ 
knoY^ledge, so he is not the less interested in propar 
gating and cherishing e^tra-ea^perimntal belief. Ig^ 
norance is his negative ally, cutting off mankiad from 
any other means of satisfying their wants eiKcept 
those which he alone can furnish 2 EMra-tospevimfm- 
iai belief is the substraturia on which all his influence 
is built. . It i^ this which fqmishes to aiiankind alt 
their evidence of the being, a power and agency <jf 
his invi&ibjb principal, and also of the posthumous 
scenes in preparation for us, where theise ar^ to be 
exhibited on a superior and perfect scale. It is this 
too which supplies mankind with the credentials of 
bis own missions, and makes them impute to him 
at once, and without cavilling, alj that long stretch of 
aerial dignity and prerogative, the actual proidf of 
which it would have been difficult fqr him to have 
gone through. Both the hope^ and fears, therefore, 
which call for his interference, and the. sdectiom of 
him as the person to remove them, rest upon the 
maintenance of extra-expierimental persuasioa iii the 
huipan breast. Were belief closely and inseparably 
knit with experience, he would never obtain credit 
for %h^ power of doing any thing etee thaa what man-, 
kind really saw him do. His interest accoidipgly 
prompts him to disjoin the two-r-ta disjoin them on 
ev^jcy occasion in^ his power, if he would ensure their 
disjunction for his own particular case* 

Any one therefore wiose power and credit with 
mankind, rest upon ik^ imputation of supematBral 
ambassadorship, must h^ impeUed by the mQsit irre? 


in the bosoms of mankind, as much a§ be poi^siWy 

3,. Take the, sana^ person ag^ih, m his Q^pi(:;Uy ^f 
lioenaed interpreter of the diving wiU ^nd decrees. 
What ediets will he be likely tp i>5Pro4lg4tej, ^ 
emanting from this consecrated souroe ? 

The only eireumatance which m^ko* the jpoweir 
of the law-interpreter iaferior to th^-t of tbQ l^gisla,tor, 
16 t^e accesflihility of the t^xt which be professes %q 
explain. Wherie thia ia open to the whole public m 
well as to him, his explanation may be qcoitroveyted^ 
and recQurae will then Ik5 had to the production of 
the originah But if either there exist no original ^t 
all, or the interpreter pos$esBa^ the exclusiye custody 
<>f it, his power is completely equiv^ent to that ^ 
a legislator. 

Now in one of these t^^o alternatives ^t^nd the 
divine 4e<^recs. Either there nev^r were any ori- 
ginal decrees at all-^oir if thtire werfe they h^ve bpe^iSL . 
deposited in a spot unknown to any one except th^ 
authorised interpreters. And therefore the latter 
become in fact legislators, iasning whatever edicts 
they ehooB© in the na^m© and on the behalf of their 
invisible master— ^and enforcing' them ^d libitnm by 
any imaginable measure of pun^ishment or reward, 
drawn from, his inexhaustible mtigazines. 

Now what principle will govern the enactment^ 
of an interpreter, or lieeised claims of interpreters, 
when thus exercising an unfettered power of legisla- 
tion ? The general principles of hur^nan nature snffer 
us Jtiat to hesitate a moment in answering this que^- 
tiop. It wili he a regard to their ov^^n septate in- 
tereat. like all olheir monapglists w.ho posses^ the 
exclusive privilege of rendering a^ny par ticwlar service 
— like all other possessors of poww ina'ependent ^, 
and irresponsible to, the community — tlvey will pur- 
sue the natural paih of seJiStpneferenct^, and will 


apply their functions to purposes of aggrandizement 
and exaction. 

Now this separate interest is irreconcileably at 
variance with that of the society. If any man, or 
any separate class, are permitted to legislate for 
their own benefit, they are in effect despots ; while 
the rest of the community are degraded to the level of 
slaves, and will be treated as such by the legislative 
system so constructed. Conformable to this system 
the precepts delivered by the supernatural delegate 
as enacted by his invisible master, will be such 
as to subjugate the minds of the community, in 
the highest practicable degree, to himself and to his 
brethren, and to appropriate for the benefit of the 
class as much wealth and power as circumstances 
will permit. This is a mere statement of the dictates 
of self-preference. 

4. To effect this purp/ose, he will find it essen- 
tially necessary to describe the Deity as capricious, 
irritable,' and vindictive, to the highest extent — as 
regarding with gloom 'and jealousy the enjoyments 
of the human worm, aud taking delight in his priva- 
tions or sufferings — pliable indeed without measure, 
and yielding up instantaneously all his previous sen- 
timents, when technically and professionally solicit- 
ed — ^but requiring the perpetual application of emol- 
lients to sooth his wrathful propensities. The more 
implicitly mankind believe in these appalling attri- 
butes, the more essential is he who can stand in the 
gap and avert the threatened pestilesnce— ^the more 
necessary is it to ensure his activity by feeing and 
ennobling him.. On whatever occasions he can, in 
the capacity of interpreter to the divine will, per- 
suade them tViat they are exposed to supernatural 
wrath — in all such junctures, he will obtain a fee, as 
mediator or intercessor, for procuring a reprieve. 

The more therefore he can multiply the number of 
offences ugainst God, the greater does his prc^t 


become — because on every such act of guilt, the sin- 
ner will find it answer to forestall the execution of 
the sentence by effecting an amicable compromise with 
the vicegerent of the Almighty. For rendering so 
important a service, the latter may make his own 

But in order to multiply offences, the most effica- 
cious method is to prohibit thosei acts which there is 
the most frequent and powerful temptation to com- 
mit. Now the temptation to perform any act is of 
course proportional to the magnitude of the pleasure- 
able, and the smallness of the painful, consequences 
by which it is attended. Those deeds, therefore, 
which are the most delightful, and the most innox- 
ious, will n^eet with the severest prohibitions in the 
religious code, and be represented as the most deeply 
offensive to the divine majesty. Because such deeds 
will be most frequently repeated and will accordingly 
create the amplest demand for the expiatory for- 

Such therefore will be the code constructed by 
the supernatural delegate in the name of his un^ 
earthly sovereign — including the most rigorous de- 
nunciations against human pleasure, and interdicting 
it the more severely in proportion as it is delicious 
and harmless. He will enjoin the most gratuitous 
and unrequited privations, and self-imposed suffer- 
ings, as the sole method of conciliating the divine 
mercy, — inasmuch as the neglect of these mandates 
must be the most common, and all such remissness 
will incur a pehalty which the transgressor must be 
compelled to redeem. 

5. All the purchase which the interpreter of the 
divine will has upon the human mind, depends upon 
the extent of its superhuman apprehensions. It is 
therefore his decided interest that the dread of these 
unseen visitations should haunt the bosoms of man- 
kind, like a heavy and perpetual incubus, day and 

, 4 .-.■ 

night-^th^ they should live under a constant sense 
of the Suspended arm of God- — and thus iti a st^te of 
Such cottsciouB insecurity and'helplessiiesiSj that till 
possibility of Earthly tiomfort should be altogether 
blighted and cast out. The more firmly these unde- 
fined terrors can be planted in a man's associations, 
the more urgent is his need of fe mediator isvith the 
atrial kingdom to which his apprehensions r^fer, 
and the more enormous the sacrifices which he will 
make in order to purchaifee such intercession. 

6. Again J it will be the decided interest of the 
inspired legislator, to clothe all his enactments in thfe 
most imposing epithets of moral approbati6n^--tcJ 
describe the Being, by whom he ife commissJotied, 
in terms which imply the holiest ^nd tnost beneficent 
character, though the proceedings and the feystem 
which be attributes to him ihdidate the rery oppo- 
site tj6mper— and to make mankind believe that 
every act of this fieing ii, and must be, just. By 
thus perverting their moral sentiments, he tighteftd 
and perpetuates the pressure of super-^human appre 
hensions. There will be less teiidency to murmur 
and revolt at these threats. When mto are persuaded 
tliat they have justly incurt^d the anger of m ftl^be- 
neficent Being. 

By this analysis, I thiAk, it appears most de-* 
moustratively, that all those Whose inftueno^ rests? 
on an imputed cohneiioft With the Divine Being, 
cannot fail to be animated by ah interest incurably 
opposed to all human happiness t that the mevitable 
aim of such persons must be to extend and fiAud^ 
irremediable, those evils which natural reHgionf 
would originate without them, viz, ignorance, extra- 
experimental belief, appalling conceptions of the 
Deity, intense dread of his visitations, and a perver- 
sion of the terms of praise, and censure in his behalf. 
To this identity of result I have traeed them both, 
although by different and perfeetly undottnected! roads. 

^It f 


Natural religion is thus provided with an array of 
human force and fraud for the purpose of enforcing 
her mandates, and realising her mischievous tendenr 
cies. A standing army of ministers is organized in 
her cause, formed either of men who are themselves 
believed to be specially gifted from the sky, or 
pf others who pretend not to any immediate in^ 
spirationin their own persons, but merely act as the 
sub-delegates of some heaven-commissioned envoy of 
aforetime. The interest of both thes^ sorts of per-^ 
sons 'is precisely identical, nor is it of the smallest 
importance whether the patent is worked by the ori- 
ginal pretender, or by any one else into whose hands 
it may have subsequently fallen. In either case its 
fruits are equally deleterious. 

In either case, the same conspirators league 
themselves for the same purposes— that of promul- 
gating and explaining the will of their incomprehen* 
sible master, and subjugating to his thraldom the 
knowledge Bnd the hopes of mankind. And the ac- 
cession of strength, which religion derives from this 
special confederation in her favour, is incalculable. 
They supply many defects, in her means of conquest 
and influence, which must otherwise have rendered 
her dominion comparatively narrow. 

First, one grand deficiency in unofficered religion, 
i^ the absence of any directive rale. Mankind, from 
their conceptions of the character of the Deity, wiH 
doubtless conjecture what sort of conduct will be 
agreeableto him, and will alsofix upon some particular 
actions belonging to that course as more agreeable 
than others. But this unguided and promiscuous 
selection is not likely t6 be either uniform, earnest^ 
or circumstantial. 

When a body of authorised agents is framed, 
through whom the designs and temper of the Deity 
can be learnt, this defect is completely supplied. 
- 18 


The ceremonial pleasing to hita is thfciv officially de- 
clared : the acts offensive to hifti are eaumerated and 
defined^ and their greater or lests enormity graduat- 
ed. Doubt and controversy are precluded, or at 
leeist exceedingly narrowed, by ian appeal to the re- 
cognized organ of infallibility. Ami thus the super- 
human terrors are concentrated and particularized,, 
whereby they are brought to act in the most cogent 
and eflfective manner which the nature of the c^us« 

2. In analysing the efficiency of the religious 
sanctions, we have already seen that their remote- 
ness And lihcertainty will not allow of their produc- 
kig a steady, equable and unvarying idapressicln upon 
the mind— although at peculiar moments, these ap- 
prehensions, become supreme and overwhelmihg, 
even to insanity. For motives thus subject to flucj-^ 
tuatiion, the cbBstd.nt pt^sence of a stianding. brother* 
hood is peculiarly req^isite> in order to watch those 
periods Wben the inind m most' vuhiferaWe tc theii* 
influence — to multiply aiid perpetuate, if pe<ssible> 
these temporary liabilities, and to secure thb pro^ 
duction cf some permianent result during the conti- 
huance of the fit* The ministers of na^tural religion^ 
by bringing their most efficieat batteries to bea* 
upon the mind iit thesie iatervdls, frequently succeed 
in eKitJiendiag the duration of the supernatural fears; 
land subjugatihg the whole raah for life*. 

Sickness— -mental affliction-— approiaching disalh— 
childhood— all these ske periods when the ifttellect 
is depressed and feeble^ and 'when the associations 
are peculiarly liabte to the inroads of* every species 
of fear. ,They are tim^ tiiierefere when the officer 
of the invisible world exercises the mo^ tmcontroUed 
despotism oter the ,soul, and bends it whither he 
wiU^ Wete it not for his dextferity in contriving to 
i^eader the bias periBanent, ikA sick or the Aeaposid^ 


eat would probably relapse, in nO long period, into 
their habitual state, of eompafative insensibility to 
supernatural terrors. 

With regard, to the dying man, indeed, no ulte- 
rior views can be entertained; but the immediate 
effect of the- presence and ascendancy of a religious 
minister j'on this occasion i^ most important. With-* 
out. his aid, posthumous apprehensions would indeed 
pmbitter the hour of death, but this would be pro- 
dw^tive of no subsequent evil. The minister not only 
aggravates, these terrors to an infinitely higher pitch, 
but offers to. the distracted patient a definite and 
easy mode by which he may in part alleviate tbjsm, 
and lessen the impending risk. He must make 
some atonement or satisfaction to God, in return for 
the offensive acts with which his life has abounded, 
by transferring a part or the whole of that property 
which be is at all events about to leave behind. 
But as he cannot have access in person to the offend- 
ed principal, this property mi^st be handed over in 
tfost to his accredited agent or rainier, for the 
inaceessible party. By such testamentary donation 
the 4ins of the past are in part redeemed. 

The religious feai:s attending upon the hour of 
death are thus converted into powerful engines for 
enriching the sacerdotal class, who CQ»trive to ex- 
tract this lasting profit from an affection of mind which 
would otherwise have caused nothing beyond mo- 
mentary pain. The a^t of mortmain attestis the 
hieight to which these death-bed commutations 
have ajctually been oarried: Nor is. it extravagant 
t<> assext, that bad there been no c^nge of the pub- 
lic seotimpnt and no jnterpositiott of the legislatune, 
nearly aill the land of England would have become 
♦he property of the eburph, . . 

3i It shpttld by no means be forgotten, tha* the 
ineffieieocy, aud the crltemation from general i»dif- 
ftarence to ocoiksional fevw, which I have «he1rn to 


belong to the religious sanction, constitute the lead- 
ing source of importance and emolument to the 
priesthood. Suppose mankind to be perfectly ac- 
quainted with all the modifications of the Divine 
temper, and strictly observant of his commands, the 
functions of this class would of course become ex- 
tinct. There would be no necessity for their services 
either as interpreters, mediators, or intercessors. 

It is their decisive interest to multiply ofFencres, 
as preparations for the lucrative season of repentance, 
during which their sway is at its zenith, and their 
most advantageous contracts realized. For each 
crime a pardpn must be obtained through the inter- 
cession and agency of the authorized mediator. He 
must therefore be propitiated by payment both in 
money and honour, and the profits of the sacerdotal 
body bear an accurate ratio to the number of offences 
committed, and of pardons implored. 

Thus the nature of the religious sanction, though 
very ill adapted fbr the purpose of actually terminat- 
ing the praoBtices it forbids, is yet calculated in the 
most precise manner to exalt and enrich the officers 
busied in enforcing it. This is the end, at which, 
supposing them like other men, they will be con- 
stantly aiming, and they have enjoyed facilities in 
the attainment of it rarely possessed by mere inter- 
mediate agents. 

For, first, they have found posthumous terror, 
firom its instability and occasional fierceness, an ex- 
quisite preparative of the mind for their dominion. 
And, secondly, they have united two functions 
which have placed this feeling entirely under their 
direction — They are, ex-officio, both framers of the 
divine law, and venders of the divine pardons for 
infringements of it. They have named the acts^ 
which required forgiveness as well as the price at 
which forgiveness should be purchased. Suppose 
only the periodical spring-tides of super-human fear 


to reach a certain height, and this machinery for 
subjugation becomes perfect and irresistible. 

If in earthly matters, these two functions were 
united — ^if the ^ame person were to beemne framer 
of the law, and agent for the sale of licences to 
elude it — it is manifest, that he would make terres- 
trial laws inconceivably burdensome and exactive, 
so that there should be no possibility of observing 
them. The interest of the sacerdotal class has been 
completely similar, leading them to require, in the 
name of the Deity, obedience where obedience is 
impracticable, and then, making^ men pay for the 
deficiency- Accordingly they inform us that he is a 
Being of such an exquisite and irritable tetapera* 
ment — ^so nicely susceptible and so vehemently im- 
patient of every thing which is not exactly like him- 
self, that we cannot escape his displeasure, except 
' by undergoing a thorough repair and regeneration 
upon the celestial model. If but the nwst transient 
wish for any thing unlike to God, or unholy, sjibots 
across the mind , it constitutes criminality and is deeply 
abhorrent to the divine perfection. To such a state 
of entire conformity no human being ever yet attmn- 
ed — and thus, by the invention of an impracticable 
code, mankind are placed in a constant necessity 
of discharging expiatory fees, and purchasing licences 
of evasion. 

fn this respect, the sacerdotal interest is directly 
at variance not only with that of the human race, but 
also with that of the divine Being. He sincerely de- 
sines,' without doubt, that his edicts should be strictly 
obeyed, and therefore would be willing to facilitate 
their execution, so far as is consistent with his own 
sensitive and exquisite purity. But the middlemen 
who poretend to serve him have unfortunately an inr 
terest in their non-performance, and therefore throw 
every possible obstacle in the way of obediei^ce. 

4. In a former part of this work, I ^:ideavoured 


to shew, diat the real actuating force which gave 
birth ta religious deeds, though so masked as not to 
be discernible on a superficial view> was /wii/ic 
opaiim. There cannot be a more effectual 8|)ur to 
this popular sentiment, than the formation of a body 
whose peculiar interesit lies in watching its various 
turns, in kindling it anew, and dexterously diversi- 
fying its applications. For this task they possess 
numerous advantages. The necessity of recurring 
to their services on many occasions ensures to them 
a large measure of respect, as well as of wealth, and 
this re-acts upon the function which they exercise. 
They labour sedulously to inculcate the deepest re* 
verence in speaking of religious matters, as well as 
extreme backwardness and timidity of soul in sub* 
jecting them to the examination of reason. They 
diffuse widely among the community those pious 
taiisapplications of moral epithets, which are in sepa* 
tabiy annexed to the natural belief in an ommpotent 
Being, availing themselves of this confusion of Ian* 
guage to stigmatize as iniquitous every thing which 
counteracts their own views, and to extol as virtuous 
that which favours them. 

By thus whipping up tod propagating the religi- 
ous antipathies of mankind, they generally succeed 
in organizing that tone pf public opinion which is 
most conducive to their interest: That is, a senti- 
ment which rigoroiisly enforces a certain measure of 
religious observance —while it also recognizes in 
words, as incumbent and necessary duties of piety, a 
number of other acts which no ,oue ever performs, 
and which mankind will allow you to leave undxme, 
provided you do not question the propriety of doing 
them. A variance is iiius introduced between the 
religious feelings and the reigning practice, and 
whenever any accident pretematuraHy kiiidlie« the 
former, such a laxity of conduct will of counse ap- 
pear pregnant with guilt. Hence thst ebb and Adw 


of nmd, asKi those periodiectl spasms of repentatft 
alarm^ whick cap only be charmed away by purcbas* 
ing c<mifort at the hands of the spiritual exorciit^ 
And thus the constitution of the public sentiment 
becomes a preparation and medium for the e$!^tua} 
dominion of this class, 

5. The fundamental principle^ upon which all the 
superhuman machinery rests its hold, has been 
^^wn to consist in e^ira-experim^lal belief.. Now 
ia diffusing and strengthening this secies of persua* 
«ioii, the sacerdotal body form most essential auxili- 
laries^ They are the legitimate and acknowledged 
interpretets of all incomprehensible event$, and any 
inference which they extract from thence is univetv 
«ally adopted. This bestows upon them an unlimith 
^ licence of coining and circulating as much ^xttrth- 
experimental master as they choose, apd of disjtortiag 
the physical links among phenomena by smuggling 
in an appeal to the divine intentio^ii?. By their com- 
stant arid well-paid activity, also, every casual coia^ 
tndence is magnified into a prodigy^ — every predic- 
'tioii*accidentally verified, into a proof of tiieir fipee^ 
fight of admission, behind the unexpanded scenes of 
ftiturity. Besides, they are continually at hand to 
4s^read abroad those myriads of fictieiifS» which the 
^xtm-^j^rmental belief has beai shewn to ^)gen- 
der. Mendacity itself becomes consecrated, when 
employed in bda»lf of religion^ and the infinity of 
pioos frauds, which may be ?ited from the pag^s of 
history, sufficiently attests the ^eal and effect with 
which the saceidotel class have laboured in the diffu- 
sion trf this unrfeal ounrency. 

From this succassivq accumulation of particular in- 
.^(tances^ a large i^gre^^obe of eo'tra-esperimeniai mat- 
ter is at last afttiassed, which lays claim to th6 tiit^ 
end honouts of a separate iscience. The stories upon 
which it is foundfed are so thickly and authoritatively 
sprteid abroad— ^pfiarently so unconnected orte with 


the other, and relying upon numerous separate attes- 
tations — that it seems impossible to discredit the 
whole, and difficult to know where to draw the line. 
To fulfil so nice a task, writers arise who compare 
the diiferent stories together, arrange them into a 
systematic order, extract meaning and inferences 
from these collations, and reject those particulars 
which cannot be reconciled with the theories tl^us 
elicited. This aerial matter is distributed into a re* 
gular and distinct branch of knowledge, partitioned 
into various subordinate departments, and the sacer- 
dotal class of course monopolize the guidance and 
gliardianship of this science almost exclusively to 
themselves. We have only to consult the first book of 
Cicero de Divinatione, in order to observe the minute 
subdivisions which the imaginary science of augury 
underwent in those times — the formal array of con- 
clusions which appear to, be strictly deduced from 
its alleged facts, and the various philosophical sys- 
tems firamed to explain and reconcile them. 

Accordingly the extra-experimental belief, when 
sufficiently augmented in volume, becomes possessed 
of a distinct station among the sciences, and reflects 
upon its practitioners and professors all that credit 
which is annexed to superiority in any other de- 
partment. Realities become divided into tw^ «epar 
rate classes; First, the world of experience, embrac- 
ing all which we see, feel, hear, taste, or smell, and 
the various connections among them. Secondly, 
the world of which we have no experience, consist- 
ing of what are called immaterial entities, or of those 
things which we neither see, nor feel, nor hear, nor 
taste^ nor smell; but which, nevertheless, we are 
supposed to know 'without any experience at aH. 
The latter science is always the colleague and cor- 
relative of the former— frequently indeed it is mone 
highly esteemed and more assiduously cultivated. 

I have endeavoured to tracp some of those 



m^des, in widdli the brotherhood hired aiid equifM, 
ped by natural religion have cowArived to promote, in 
so high a degree, tibe success of the cause inscribed 
on their banners — and in so much higher a degree, to 
aggrandi^je and enrich themselves. My sketch, in- 
deed, has been exceedingly superficial and incom- 
I^ete; because the facilities which such a stand- 
ing corps possesses for compassing its ends, are 
both innumerable and indescribable. We ought not 
however to forget, that a wealthy and powerfiil 
body of this kind not only acts with its own force, 
but also with that of all who have any thing to hope, 
or to fear, from it. To become a member of the 
body constitutes a valuable object of ambition, and 
all, who have any chance of attaining such a post, 
will of course conspire vehemently in its support. 
Besides, there arises a long train of connecti<^» and 
dependants, who diffuse themselves every where 
through the community, and contribute most mate-' 
rially to spread and enhanee the influence of the 

In addition to these, however, they have yet 
another ally, more powerful and efficmit than all the 
rest, — the earthly chief, or governing power of the 
state. He, as well as they, has an interest incura- 
bly at variance with that of the community, and all 
smister interests have a natural tendency to ccnnbine 
together and to co-operate, inasmuch as the ol^eet 
of each is thereby most completely and most easily 
secured. But between the particular interest of a 
governing aristocracy and a sacerdotal class, there 
seems a very peculiar affinity and coincidence— -each 
wielding the precise engine which the other wants. 

The aristocracy, for instance, po^ess thp disposal 

of a mass of phyacal force sufficient to cmrfi any 

partial resistance, and demand only to be secured 

against any very general or simulttneous copposition 



on the part of the community. To make this sure, 
they are obliged to maintain a strong purchase upon 
the public mind, and to chain it down to the level 
of submission — to plant within it feelings which may 
neutralize all hatred of slavery, and facilitate the 
business of spoliation. For this purpose the sacer- 
dotal class are most precisely and most happily cut 
out. By theirinfluence over the moral sentiments, 
they place implicit submission among the first of all 
human duties. They infuse the deepest reverence 
for temporal power, by considering the existing au- 
thorities as established and consecrated by the rm- 
matei^ial Autocrat above, and as identified with his 
divine majesty. The duty of mankind towards the 
earthly government becomes thus the same as duty 
to God — that is, an unvarying " prostration both of 
the understanding and will." Besides this direct de- 
basement of the moral faculties for the purpose of 
assuring non-resistance, the supernatural terrors,' 
and the extra-experimental belief, which the priest- 
hood are so industrious in diffusing, all tend to the 
very same result. They produce that mistrust, 
alarm, and insecurity, which disposes a man to bless 
himself in any little fragment of present enjoyment, 
while it stifles all aspirations for future improve- 
ment and even all ideas of its practicability. 

Such is the tacit and surreptitious, though inces- 
sant and effectual, operation on the public senti- 
ment, by which the priest-hood keep down all dis- 
position on the part of matikind to oppose the in- 
roads of their governors. Their influence is perhaps 
greater when they preach thus on behalf of the go- 
vernment, than on their own. Because in the for- 
mer case, the interest which they have in the doc- 
trine w^ not so obvious, and they appear like impar- 
tial counsellors, inculcating a behaviour of which 
they thepiselves are first to set the example. 


. The earthly ruler, on the other hand, amply re- 
pays the co-operation which he has thus derived. 
The mental (or psychagogical) machinery of the 
priast-hood is very excellent; but they are unhappily 
deficient in physical force. Hence the protection 
of the earthly potentate is of most essential utility 
to a class so defectively provided in this main point. 
The coercion which he supplies is all sanctified by 
the holy name of religion, in defence of which it is 
resorted to; and he is extolled, while thus engaged, 
as the disinterested servant of the invisible Being. 
He is therefore permitted to employ, in behalf of re- 
ligion, an extent and disposition of force which 
would have provoked indignation and revolt, on any 
other account. 

The utmost extent of physical force, which cir- 
cumstances will permit, is in this manner put for- 
ward, to smother any symptom of impiety, or even 
of dissent from the sacerdotal dogmas: Irreligion and 
heresy become crimes of the deepest dye, and the 
class are thus secured, in their task of working on 
the public mind, from all competition or » contest. 
Under the protection of such powerful artillery, 
this cbrps of sappers and miners carries on a tran- 
quil, but effectual, progress in the trenches. 

Nor is it merely a negative aid which the earthly 
governor extends to them. He extorts from the 
people, in their favour, a large compulsory tribute, 
in order to maintain them in aflBuence and in worldly 
credit ; thus securing to them an additional purchase 
upon the public sentiment, and confirming his own 
safety from resistance. Under no other pretence 
could he induce the people to pay taxes, specially 
for the purpose of quartering throughout the country 
a standing army of advocates to check alnd counter- 
act all opinions unfavourable to himself. They may 
be brought to this sacrifice in behalf of a sacerdotal 


dftss, whose iiit(^j^» by tfm forced pikmm>a fbus 
obtained, biSGoiECid still moir«> c^ely identified with 
that of the earthly ruler. 

One of the most noxious properties therefoar e, ift the 
profession of men to which natural reli^on gives birth, 
IS ils x:;oincidenee and league with the sinister interests 
of earth — a coincidence so entire, as to secure unity 
of design oa the part of both, without any necessity 
for special confederation^ and therefore more mis-' 
chievously efficient than it would have prored had 
the deed of partnership been open and proclaimed. 
Prostration and plunder of the community is indeed 
the comoKMi end of both.. The only point upon 
wh^h there can be any dissension^ is about the par- 
tition of the spoil — and quarrels of this nature hare 
occasionally taken place, in cases wh^re the passive 
state of the people has obviated all apprehension 
of resistance. In general, however, the necessity of 
strict ainity has been too visible to admit of much 
discord, and the division of the spoil has been ear* 
lied on tranquilly, though in different ratios, accord-^ 
ing to the tone of the public mind. 


PrintiKl and PubKshed by R. CarHle, 55, Fleet Street. 

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